Tuesday 25 June 2019

Boy’s painful coming of age highlights why prejudice is on the rise in France

Fiction: The End Of Eddy, Edouard Louis, Translated by Michael Lucey, Harvill Secker €14.99

The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis
The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

Edouard Louis is 25 and this is his debut novel, written at 19. When first published three years ago, it sold more than 300,000 copies, captivating a French audience.

It is more of a raw autobiographical project than a work of fiction and has already been translated into 20 languages. Such is the power of the writing, the book dispels any myth that tourists may have that the poor in rural France lead charmed lives.

Set in the village of Hallencourt, Picardy, the structure is like a short story collection. One chapter relates the bleakness of a woman’s life — raising five children, a vividly described miscarriage, a filthy house and trips to the food bank to see what can be found for dinner.

Christened Eddy Belleguele, the author’s survival through childhood is a miracle, having been bullied by brutes in his village school and, most of all, at home for being ‘different’. His difference? He walked and talked like a girl with ‘fancy ways’ and ‘queeny gestures’.

The autobiographical aspect makes for uncomfortable reading. The parents, particularly his father, are characterized as deranged. Whatever genetic transmission occurred during Eddy’s conception, it did not seem to include virility, which is what his father required of a son, to prove his own manhood.

Eddy’s reminiscence presents a candid explanation as to why there’s rising anger among the forgotten people, why prejudice and racism are increasing in France and why growing numbers might vote for an extreme right-wing president.

If this young man’s account is an example of the true state of France, where a small-minded, vitriolic proletariat brutally attack a child for being gay, then its revolution has failed miserably to produce an egalitarian society, of any means. All Eddy yearns to do is escape the village; eventually he does at 14, with a scholarship to a lycee in Amiens, where he discovers the bourgeoisie and a new world where being gay seems ordinary.

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