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You Changed My Life Paperback – July 10, 2012
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About the Author
Abdel Sellou now lives in Algeria with his wife and three children, where he runs a chicken farm. He remains close to Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, who lives in Morocco with his second wife and two children.
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After seeing the movie, "The Intouchables," I couldn't believe that a person (Abdel/"Driss") so characterologically amoral would be able to change the way the movie pictured in such a short time. So I bought this book that he wrote for another perspective--and I was not disappointed; it gave that to me and I feel richly rewarded for having read it. (Now I'll start reading "A Second Wind" by Phillippe Pozzo di Borgo.)
I recommend you see the movie first, bearing in mind that it's not a documentary but was inspired by the life stories of Phillippe Pozzo & Abdel ("Driss" in the film). The movie does have much more continuity than the book but at the expense of taking many liberties, short cuts, alterations of the actual facts and time lines. (E.g., Abdel/"Driss" worked with Phillippe for 10 years & about a year before Phillippe's first wife, Beatrice, died; Abdel did not play "matchmaker" for Phillipe's second marriage.) It does stay true to the unique and uplifting story of these two men.
Although Abdel is not a skilled author -- I found his book fascinating because it was like spending an afternoon chatting with Abdel about his life before, during, and after his time with Phillippe: somewhat disjointed, organized by when something comes into his mind rather than being driven by a need to carefully, very orderly explicate beginnings, middles, and conclusions. Abdel's "style" gives a feeling of the unique reality of Abdel that a more polished version probably would never accomplish. This book's "Forward" by Phillipe expresses surprise that Abdel would open up so much and, IMO, Abdel's style of writing and content, what he covers or doesn't cover, conveys Abdel's ambivalence and views of the real person and his transformation that a more experienced writer couldn't touch.
I'm a retired clinical psychologist; much of my last 20+ years of work was in the marriage & family area. I learned there's never just one "true" view of relationships; it always depends on who is telling the story. E.g., the child favored by one parent has a much different view of both parents than his/her sibling does. The "Rashomon effect"* actually exists: "The Intouchables" film gave one view of them, Abdel's and Phillippe's books give two others.
* The "Rashomon effect" in Marr. & Fam. work takes its name after Kurosawa's famous film in which 4 different people saw the same event yet each describes motivations, causes and effects in 4 completely different ways.
Of real interest to me was the insight given into the mind and thinking of a "street kid". I was also struck by how pervasive American popular culture is. Abdel makes constant reference to American movie, tv and cartoon characters.
I liked that it had a happy ending. Things could have certainly been much different for both the people in the story.