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School Blues by Daniel Pennac
Olivier Barrot presents us "School Blues", a book written by Danniel Pennac and winner of the Renaudot Award.
A highly praised and best selling novelist in France, Daniel Pennac first became known for his series of thrillers that took place in the working class neighborhood of Belleville, in northern Paris. His main character Benjamin Malaussène was the leader of an informal group of relatives, friends and immigrants, who would come across violent scenes of all kinds, which Benjamin would invariably manage to sort out, bringing back peace and quiet, at least for a while. And then All of a sudden, a few years ago, Daniel Pennac published a new book, called « School Blues », which was utterly different from his previous books : instead of a novel it was a collection of anecdotes that dealt with his surprisingly painful past as a schoolboy. It turns out that Pennac, a prominent writer to be, was a dunce, just like Einstein, Chaplin, Picasso, Balzac, and so many others. A mischievous jokester who talked back merrily to his his angry teachers, Pennac would not understand what was the purprose of school. Although he went on to to become a teacher, and an inspirational one, opening his students’ minds, bringing them to a personal discovery of reading and reflexion. « School Blues » pleads the case for those of us who do not manage to cope with the strict system of education (especially French education). Among so many moving and realistic scenes, is the one when a little girl gets a bad mark and starts crying. Her teacher has her come to his desk and attempts to appease the child. she replies : « You don’t understand, sir, I’m twelve and a half, and I haven’t done anything with my life ». Other children were what Pennac calls « icing on the cake students. « Little Noémie, for example, on her glowing report card, wasn’t just praised by a teacher for her top mark on her school report : Noémie, French 19/20, thank you . Pennac, no doubt, knows what the ordeal of being a bad student is about, he endured so many personal humiliations, including this cruel remark after a more than failed dictation : « Minus 38, Pennac, the temperature keeps on dropping ». This sparkling and realistic chronicle actually reads like fiction, since it’s filled with invention, be it these children’s inventions. No surprise that « School Blues » was awarded the much coveted Prix Renaudot, usually bestowed upon Works of fiction.