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Kamel Benaouda wins the prize for the first youth novel 2018

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Very early, Kamel Benaouda wanted to write. Having become a teacher of letters and a novelist, he imagines the life of an ordinary person in a world where he is the only one not to be endowed with superpower. “Norman has no super-power” just won the competition of the first youth novel, organized by Gallimard with Télérama and RTL.

His appearance is sweet, his solar smile. A mixture of controlled shyness and quiet presence. At 36, Kamel Benaouda keeps looking very young, but his voice is asked, his words measured. Professor of letters in a high school, near Angers, father of four girls, he has just won the competition of the first youth novel organized by Gallimard with Télérama and RTL (1) . The culmination of a long-standing path for those who, when young, dreamed of seeing their name printed on the cover of a book. He was 4 when one of his older sisters took him to the library next to the HLM bar where his family lived in the suburbs of Lyon. He speaks of a “shock”, still remembers the first album he opened. “I flipped through it, I looked at the pictures. It was the story of a little girl who had had a nightmare and was trying to reach her parents’ room. “Today, Kamel custody rebuild afterwards a straight path, like an enchanted path. Nevertheless, reading has counted a lot and the desire to write has come very early, from the college years.

The imaginary as a space of freedom

His parents came from Algeria, the family income was modest, the siblings had eight children. “The budget was tight, we did not go out and I was not a fan of football, so I was always crammed into the library. “He reads a little of everything, but the imaginary literatures have a preference, he cites Tolkien, Jules Verne, Anthony Horowitz. “It seems to me that it is easier to talk about reality by this detour, the imaginary makes it possible to shift the gaze. When I read my favorite children’s writers, Jean-Claude Mourlevat or Timothée de Fombelle, I realize that they touch me more when they go deep into the imagination. I like writing as a space of freedom, we can do what we want, be what we are. ” Old question for the child of immigrant who remembers the difficulty to find his place in a neighborhood ” a bit difficult ” where we were fingered as much as in Algeria when we went to visit the family.

“School, writing, that’s what saved me.”

As early as middle school, Kamel thought of becoming a teacher, to give back some of what he received from teachers who participated as much in his “intellectual training” as in his achievement “as a human being” . “School, writing, that’s what saved me. I told myself, naturally, that I was going to prolong the movement. “From ‘leisure’, writing became a” need “. Kamel Benaouda has tried all genres, privileging the imagination. Three years ago, a previous novel was almost accepted by Gallimard. “The feedback was very encouraging, but my book was not unanimously approved by the reading committee. “When the competition was introduced, it did not hesitate. Nine hundred manuscripts were in competition, his won. His name is Norman, he has no superpower . The novel inverts the principle of the stories of superheroes he once read, Superman or Batman . Norman is an ordinary, normal character who lives in a world where everyone has a super power. “It’s a story of superheroes, but the real subject is the discomfort that sometimes feels to be out of step with others, to have more difficulties than others to find his place. ” The novel is moving and funny, serious and light at the same time, full, in the end, the idea that out of the refuge of the imaginary real life is not bad either.

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