In this provocative autobiographical novel Michaël Sebban gives a ground-level view of French anti-Semitism.
Eli, of Algerian descent, is a philosophy teacher at a high school in a suburb of Paris. His teenaged students often give him problems, especially the North African immigrants, who don’t hesitate to show outright anti-Semitic views. Eli tries to resolve this prejudice by linking Muslims and Jews to a single cultural history in the Maghreb, but his students refuse to be enlightened.
He falls in love with Chloë, a Moroccan Jew who lives in one of the most bourgeois districts of Paris. They plan to marry but the gap between his working-class background and her upper-class lifestyle proves too broad.
Lehaïm is a cry of grief at the erosion of values and against the fracturing of French society. However, Sebban manages brilliantly to undercut the seriousness of his subject with a humorous style drawn from the vibrant slang of Parisian youth.