Éric Chacour, Femina Prize for high school students

The title What I know about you (Editions Philippe Rey) is a highly acclaimed first novel. The author born in Montreal to Egyptian parents is distinguished by a great reward.

The literary season is the season of revelations. It turns out that Eric Chacour, with his first novel, What I know about youwas among the favorites of the Literary Figaro. He has just received the Femina Prize for high school students, which was presented to him in Rouen for its eighth edition. This award brings together 20 high schools, or some 600 students, and 16 independent partner bookstores.

It’s a first title that has an air of clic. The style, the narration, the story itself commands admiration. The author, Éric Chacour, features Tarek, a young Christian Egyptian doctor who takes over his deceased father’s practice. We are in Cairo, in a bourgeois family. From the mother to the wife, including the little sister and the servant, everyone plays their role perfectly in a corseted society. Everything changes when Tarek decides to open a dispensary in a poor neighborhood: he discovers another world, and Ali, a boy who gets by as best he can while taking care of his bedridden mother. Tarek will not introduce him to medicine, but will ensure that he becomes his istant.

We can’t reveal what happens next, but just say that a kiss will cause an explosion. There are two tours de force in What I Know About You. The first is the period over which the fiction takes place, from 1961 to 2001, forty years of history between Cairo, Montreal and Boston, by flashback, without this in any way hindering the fluidity of the story. The second tour de force is much rarer: it is this almost permanent informal use of the narrator: is it a man or a woman who addresses Tarek, the main character? Is it someone who knows him so well, his wife, his mother, the servant?

“A first novel of impressive mastery and emotion.”

The mystery is maintained throughout two thirds of the novel, until the moment when we move from “you” to “I” – this gives an incredible charm to the text, something which at the same time puts a tension in the novel and poses a number of questions. As the pages p, the story grows in depth and breadth. And the writing is simply magnificent, almost from another time. We reread sentences touched by grace, which resonate like aphorisms: “Men are nomads at a standstill.” Or: “Every man carries within himself the seeds of his own destruction.”

What I know about you had received he had received the First Feather Prize. This beautiful text was praised by critics and the juries of the Renaudot and Femina prizes (it appeared in their first selections); , “A first novel of impressive mastery and emotion. A revelation,” said Augustin Trappenard in The Great Bookstore.

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