And Their Children After Them: Disaffected youth in 1990s France

Review: Nicolas Mathieu’s portrait of ennui and class in a changing nation is exceptional

French writer Nicolas Mathieu. Photograph: Michel Stoupak/NurPhoto via Getty

French writer Nicolas Mathieu. Photograph: Michel Stoupak/NurPhoto via Getty

It’s a good job teenagers are so bloody miserable or a whole genre of literature would have to be abandoned for ever. There’d be no Outsiders, no Catcher in the Rye; John Green would be out of a job. When Albert Camus published L’Étranger in 1942, French readers were gripped by the book’s audacious blend of youth and racial discord.

There are echoes of Camus’s classic in Nicolas Mathieu’s second novel, which won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt. Not only is it steeped in as much tension and violence as its literary precursor, but it’s also as good an account of disaffected youth as I’ve read in a long time.

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