The Upside by Abdel Sellou

book cover

Published:Perseus Books, Weinstein Books
Date: February 6th 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 224
Genre: Memoir

Source:Little Bird Publicity via NetGalley

Goodreads callout

The story of Abdel Sellou’s surprising friendship with aristocrat Philippe Pozzo di Borgo has been told and retold around the world-most recently in the major motion picture with comedian and movie star Kevin Hart portraying Abdel and his edgy charm. In this appealing memoir, Sellou shows us the real man behind Kevin Hart’s smiling face.

The book takes us from his childhood spent stealing candy from the local grocery store, to his career as a pickpocket and scam artist, to his unexpected employment as a companion for a quadriplegic. Sellou tells his story with a stunning amount of talent, humor, style, and-though he denies that he has any-humility.


I have not seen the documentary or the movie that have recounted some of Abdel Sellou’s activities, however I didn’t need to, reading The Upside was complete in itself. Although if I got the opportunity to ever view the other media I would.

I couldn’t help but become fascinated by Abdel Sellou’s story.  It would seem the world came to know him first as an aide to wealthy Phillippe Pozzo di Borgio –  a tetraplegic.  They are well suited to each other.  Abel Sellou is irreverent, fun-loving and sure to shake up the household. He arrived in France when he was four, given to an uncle and aunt as is often the custom in Algeria.

He tells his story of those days – of how he learned to live on the streets, steal and break laws until the age of eighteen when he can be held responsible for his actions. And so he has a little stint in jail. If there is one word that describes this character for me – it is resilient. He may have escaped a formal education by mainly just not turning up, but in many other ways he was smart.

His childhood underlined for me what happens when a child has no boundaries and is allowed to do what he likes. His new parents loved him, but didn’t know how to raise him, he raised himself.

However his friendship with Phillippe Pozzo di Borgio gradually educates and grows Abel Sellou.  While this man is more in the background in the memoir, he himself is very inspiring. What abides with me as I finish the book is the power of a deep friendship that enriches two lives.

This memoir was well worth the read.

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