A MEMOIR OF THE FRIENSHIP THAT INSPIRED THE ACCLAIMED FILM
By Abdel Sellou
On Sale February 6, 2018
The real-life chronicle of Abdel Sellou—a young Algerian swindler struggling to find his way through life—and Philippe Pozzo di Borgo—his tetraplegic employer who leads him down a surprising new path— captivated millions in the 2011 film sensation, Intouchables. The film became the all-time highest-grossing foreign language film, and has since surpassed $400 million at the global box office. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, and Nicole Kidman, THE UPSIDE (Hachette Books, on sale February 6, 2018) goes behind the silver screen to reveal, in Sellou’s own words, a story of unexpected friendship and personal transformation.
For all the tall tales he tells throughout his youth, Sellou could never have dreamed of befriending a wealthy aristocrat from Paris’s swanky 16th arrondissement. At age four, Sellou and his brother are shipped off from their native Algiers to the heart of the French capital to live with their new guardians, Uncle Belkacem and Aunt Amina. The couple—no children of their own, naïve to the ground rules of parenting—give Sellou what every boy dreams of: total freedom.
Sellou immediately sheds the shackles of society’s rules and boundaries, and youthful innocence gives way to cunning and deceit. Forged parental signatures become stolen sweatshirts and shoes; at age ten, he has his first police encounter for extorting one of his classmates. Sellou soon abandons school altogether, preferring to pinch cameras and Walkmen off unsuspecting tourists in Trocadéro than answer to the administration. Trips to the principal’s office are exchanged for time spent in handcuffs, though his artful smooth-talking and youth prevent the law from taking him out of the game for too long. That is, until his eighteenth birthday, when pickpocketing and assault land him his first prison sentence.
Ten months behind bars does little for Sellou except strengthen his conviction that he’s destined for a life of petty crime. Except now, he’s got counselors pushing him to find a job, and why not: a few months of menial work followed by a speedy resignation will land the next set of unemployment checks. But then a job lead sends Sellou to avenue Léopold II, to interview for a position as the “life auxiliary to a tetraplegic person.”
This first meeting between Sellou and his lifelong friend Philippe Pozzo di Borgo begins with a demand for a signature as proof for the unemployment office. It ends with an offer Sellou can’t refuse: full-time work caring for the wheelchair-bound man and an apartment all his own.
Almost instantly, the bond between Sellou and Philippe begins to solidify. It is strengthened by the good times they share together: Sellou’s effortless humor, Monsieur Pozzo’s toothy laughter, joy rides in the Jaguar XJS, family trips to the south of France. It is tested through the death of Philippe’s wife, Béatrice, and his constant, chronic pain. Sellou devotes himself to his employer and friend, and his life of crime starts to seem far behind him.
Sellou arrived on that first day thinking he wouldn’t stay ten minutes. He ends up staying ten years.
Told through the honest, humorous, and compelling voice of Sellou, and with a forward by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo himself, THE UPSIDE is a page-turning memoir that demonstrates how believing in someone else can allow you to finally start believing in yourself.
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.