With The Full of Ordinary, Étienne Tremblay erects laziness into a gesture of resistance and the four walls of a gas station into the improbable setting of one of the best first novels of 2023.

“Shell, it’s okay where it’s most relaxed, if you want to grab your donut,” says the 30-year-old writer who sits in front of us and knows all about gas stations. . Shell, Couche-Tard, Ultramar, Petro-Canada: Étienne Tremblay has worn each of their badly cut uniforms at least once. “Petros, I must have made four or five,” he says, his eyes sparkling, visibly amused by the formidable inconsistency of the teenager he was and from whom he borrowed the main features. of Matthew.

Black belt in laziness, Olympic-level soft flank, the perfect opposite of employee of the month; Étienne Tremblay’s alter ego in Le plein d’ordinary ticks off the hours behind the counter of his Super Relais in Boucherville, without ever losing sight of the clock, which will allow him at the end of his night shift to reconnect with his real passions: smoking weed, playing video games and waiting for the divine inspiration that will bring to life in him the most beautiful poems in the history of literature.

Mathieu sells gasoline and gradually moves away from his own. ” To work. Host. Work all the time. Life is too short to work, if you want my opinion”, sums up the touching idler in this apprenticeship novel at the end of which his antihero may not have learned much, except that to inject a minimum of seriousness into its existence.

Think of the shrewd humor of a François Blais (Iphigénie en Haute-Ville, Document 1) and the virtuosity of Stéphane Larue (The Diver) for bewitching descriptions of surprisingly intriguing places.

“This decor was perfect for contrasting this teenager who is animated inside by big things, completely crazy and engaging, compared to what he concretely experiences day to day,” explains Étienne Tremblay in an interview in the Petro-Canada racket located at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Bernard. “When you’re a teenager, you’re full of hopes, but you don’t necessarily have the mental tools to express them. »

“A third of people [in the West] think their jobs are useless,” anthropologist David Graeber lamented in 2018 following the publication of his popular essay Bullshit Jobs, a damning portrait of the relative usefulness of many of the jobs our society could do without.

“There is a moral bankruptcy in there”, laments Étienne Tremblay in turn, according to whom many of these summer jobs, like the one Mathieu occupies, cultivate early an adhesion to a world of work which would only allow in too few cases to flourish and where well-paid but superfluous positions would have multiplied.

“McDo, Petro and all those jobs teach you that your work won’t necessarily have meaning, that it’s alienating, that’s the way it works and it will be like that until your retirement,” observes the man who earns his own living as publishing coordinator for the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Inspired by Paul Léautaud’s aversion to metaphor – “I appreciate beautiful images, but I don’t have much patience for the humbug of useless artifice” – Étienne Tremblay also says he was marked by the lack of judgment with which Flaubert considers his characters. Your journalist points out to him that his lazy narrator has a lot in common with a certain Emma Bovary, who only managed to fully exist through her rich imagination.

“It’s true that there is a certain Bouchervillois bovarysme in Mathieu,” agrees the young author, laughing, most likely the first time in the history of humanity that these two words were uttered in the same sentence.

A magnificently schoolboy novel, which cleverly camouflages its plea for another world behind the approximate thought of a boy as innocent as he is clairvoyant, Le plein d’ordinary could be read as an invitation to reconnect with the intransigence of this precise moment when the he absurdity of many aspects of adult life finally becomes clear to us.

“A lot of people will look down on a guy like Mathieu and he may actually need a few slaps in the face, admits Étienne Tremblay, but he’s at the same time a guy who has other hopes than this job. which just eats up his time and doesn’t make him happy. »