I had never heard of Edouard Louis until March of this year when I read his featured article in New York Times Magazine. And I was incredibly intrigued. Who was this French writer who had been upending French literature for years? Why hadn’t I ever heard of him? I keep up with popular books and there are translations of his work in English. How had I literally never heard of The End of Eddy?
Honestly, I’m still not sure. The End of Eddy came out in 2017. I was out of college at that point so it wasn’t like I was buried under a pile of school work. I’ve read a fair amount of queer literature and a hand full of French novels that were translated. I can only guess that it is a combination of things. American’s thinking we’re superior to other nations. And we don’t want to read about poor communities, anywhere. It could be because it’s blatant in it’s violence and poverty. It’s unapologetic in it’s depiction of life as a queer young man.
Whatever the case, I didn’t know about Louis or his writing until roughly two months ago. But as soon as I did, I put The End of Eddy on hold at the library. It was an intense read.
Eddy was born in Hallencourt, a village in north France. Hallencourt, as we soon discover, is an incredibly impoverished area. The main source of work for men is a factory and the woman are pretty much limited to becoming teachers, shop clerks, or aids for elderly people. The houses are run down, the water supply is limited and many rooms inside Eddy’s house don’t have actual doors.
It would be a tough place to grow up for anyone, but for a boy who is deemed too feminine and sissy, it’s pure hell.
His own family is embarrassed by him, he’s harassed and bullied by boys at school, and the whole town thinks he’s ‘odd.’ Eddy doesn’t ever really make friends, he hangs out with a group of guys but he’s always on the periphery.
There are two boys at school in particular who are physical, and gross, and who make life terrible for Eddy. There were sections of the book that were very difficult to read and my heart ached for all that Louis must have endured.
A large part of The End of Eddy focuses on Louis’ response to this upbringing and how it affected him psychologically. He knew his bullies so well, he could read their moods and honestly kinda liked that they beat him up every day. He justified having anal sex with another boy from the neighborhood because they were both pretending Eddy was a girl. At one point he dated a girl for awhile and everyone was so excited about it. Except him.
Honestly, my heart just broke for him. I have never had to struggle with my identity like that, never had to hide who I was or be ashamed of a fundamental part of who I am. And it must have been horrible.
Which is why I feel like I’m not really in a position to judge this book. It’s non fiction, this is a retelling of his life. I’ve seen people say he exaggerated parts of it, or didn’t tell the whole truth. Or played up how rough things were and intentionally left out any good parts.
To which I say: that’s ok. This is obviously what he needed to do to write about this situation.
It’s not my job to critique how a person felt in life. And unless someone is a literal judge or like on a jury or something, no one owes us the entire truth. Or to tell every fact is exactly correct and portrayed how it happened. This is his version.
If you think Jessica Simpson and Demi Moore’s books were not written and edited to serve their purposes and put them in a certain light, have I got news for you.
Which is all to day, I think more people should read The End of Eddy. Some of the subject matter is difficult. But it goes beyond that. It’s gratifying to know that Louis was able to handle the trauma he’d suffered through. To know he was able to build a life for himself. And it’s important to know that we still have a lot of work to do for our communities. In relation to economic standing, in education, in basic acceptance. So read it. And I recommend you read the NYT Mag piece as well.