Selected for the Prix Goncourt and the Renaudot, Mokhtar Amoudi’s first novel, “Les conditions Idéal”, is an immersion in the childhood and adolescence of a boy who wants to get out of his environment. Endearing.
There is everything in this first novel by Mokhtar Amoudi, The ideal conditions (editions Gallimard): fine writing, fine humor, disarming sincerity, subtle references and hope within reach. Sincerity first. It is difficult to write a book on the suburbs without coming across hackneyed clichés, worn to the point of deep boredom, such as the dealer brother who has become an Islamist, the studious young girl who wants to emancipate herself and the silent, overwhelmed illiterate parents waiting for dead to go and rest in the bled. Clichés and stereotypes, full pages, saturation of screens. Then a voice arises, because it is sincere and benevolent, and the book becomes a literary object. Mokhtar Amoudi takes us in the footsteps of Skander, a boy like any other, to this strange country bordering Paris, Neuf-Trois (93).
Skander’s Fabulous Journey
Skander hasn’t had it easy. Carried from host family to host family, the young student finds refuge in the dictionary. “In the Larousse, we found the whole world explained. There were these Latin expressions with a hidden but always defined meaning.” Abandoned by his parents, Skander is an excellent student, who suffers in silence. “I convinced myself; I was bad and useless to everyone since in peacetime you don’t abandon your child. I was cursed at birth”. With an alert pen, full of empathy, Mokhtar Amoui makes us live the chaotic journey, on the edge of systemic violence, of a child who only aspires to succeed in his studies and who finds himself confronted with a society unequal.
Neuf-Trois or the story of a defector
How to free oneself from social determinism? The Nine-Three, then. Skander lands there, as if by accident, without being prepared. He finds himself at Madame Khadidja’s. The shock is terrible. He goes from a stable foster family to a difficult neighborhood, a euphemism for ghetto. Farewell, good grades. “My academic peak was compared to the Renaissance; a good memory that would never come back”. The ideal conditions, an autobiographical novel? Mystery for the reader who becomes attached to Skander in his journey as a defector. With his sense of formula, Mokhtar Amoudi gives life to a host of characters, each as endearing as the other, the prize going to Madame Khadidja, an exceptional and resilient woman. Mokhtar Amoudi evokes all these shattered lives with great modesty.
The ideal conditions, a first novel as powerful as endearing. Mokhtar Amoudi, birth of a subtle pen.
(The ideal conditions, Mokhtar Amoudi, Gallimard editions, 21 euros)