In conversation with Steven Reigns
“Édouard Louis uses literature as a weapon,” says a recent New York Times profile of the internationally bestselling French author. Louis, whose highly acclaimed first autobiographical novel, The End of Eddy, confronts both the institution of discrimination as he experienced it first-hand, growing up in a small town in Northern France where he was bullied and forced to conceal his homosexuality and as well, the violence perpetrated on his hardscrabble community by an indifferent state. Now in his second book, the writer delivers another unsparing examination of survival—this time the story of his own rape and near murder by a stranger on Christmas Eve in 2012. In History of Violence, Louis copes with his post-traumatic stress disorder as he moves seamlessly and hypnotically between past and present, between his own voice and the voice of an imagined narrator to understand how such violence could occur. In a conversation with Steven Reigns, Louis examines his own complicated search for justice in a political system that marginalizes its citizens through class inequities and leaves entire communities vulnerable, powerless, and feeling neglected.
Born Eddy Bellegueule in Hallencourt, France, in 1992, Édouard Louis is a novelist and the editor of a scholarly work on the social scientist Pierre Bourdieu.
Who Killed My Father
Highly acclaimed for The End of Eddy, Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father rips into France’s long neglect of the working class and its overt contempt for the poor, accusing the complacent French—at the minimum—of negligent homicide.
“Racism,” he quotes Ruth Gilmore, “is the exposure of certain groups to premature death.” And Louis goes to visit the ugly gray town of his childhood to see his dying father—barely fifty years old, he can hardly walk or breathe: “You belong to the category of humans whom politics consigns to an early death.” It’s as simple as that.
But hand in hand with searing, specific denunciations are tender passages of a love story between a father and son badly damaged by shame, poverty and homophobia, but still so alive. Tenderness reconciles them just as the state kills off his father. Louis goes after the French system with bare knuckles but then turns to his long-alienated father with open arms: this passionate combination makes Who Killed My Father a heartbreaking book.
Translated from the French by Lorin Stein