The best general description of this wonderful book is on the back page of the Folio edition, which manages to include virtually all the elements in it, apart from stealing (maybe on the métro) as a survival mechanism. As the first French-Algerian novel of its kind, this is an extremely powerful work. Ah, the verlan: 'renoir' (noir, or black), 'keblas' (blacks), 'kefric' (money), etc. The title comes from a pupil writing his version on 'Le Théorème d'Archimède' on the chalkboard as 'Le Thé au harem d'Archi Ahmed', bringing on himself class ridicule. Anyway, as the back page says (with my traslation):
'A working-class highrise area. On the wall: grafitti, slogans, distress calls, obscene drawings. Mahjid lives there. He's the son of immigrants, lost between two cultures, two languages, two skin colours, inventing his own roots, the things he's attached to. He's waiting. Without thinking too much because of the unbearable anguish. Fear rules. Violence. Love too. For the mother Malika, the brothers and the sisters, the father – a little old man who fell from a roof and lost his senses. For the mates and friend Pat, bringing him good times and bad times, pulling girls and drugs. Tenderness, friendship, a few laughs: these are the only glimmers of light in an existence dedicated to failure. "Concrete doesn't sing, it howls despairingly like the wolves in the forest, paw prints in the snow, not even possessed with the strength to hollow out a hole to die in."'