A sensation in his native France, The End of Eddy is an unflinching depiction of poverty, racism and homophopia in the rural north of France
My other father
Here is an anecdote my mother told me. It was during one of the village dances – outlandishly named dances that would take place in the village hall a couple of times a year, like ‘Tartiflette and Eighties night’, or ‘Cassoulet and Johnny Lookalikes night’.
There was a gay man, a brave guy, who had made the choice to live his life openly. He would go to these dances with other men he had met, probably at some of the cruising spots found in the area, deserted car parks or seedy petrol stations. All the boys from the village would also turn up, gangs of mates who came to drink, have fun, sing, and try to pick up the very small number of girls who weren’t already taken, who didn’t already have children.
What with the alcohol and group dynamics, the boys started bothering the gay man, bumping into him with their shoulders, giving him hostile looks, So what’s your story, you’re a fag, right, you like sucking dick, stop looking at me like that or I’ll punch your face in. My father came over, having heard everything. He was really angry, his jaw clenched, and he said, Leave him the fuck alone, you shitheads, you think you’re funny calling him names, so he’s a fag, why the fuck should you care? What’s it got to do with you? He told them to go home. Enough of your bullshit. He came this close to beating them up himself my mother concluded.
My mother told me another story from my father’s life when, around the age of twenty, he had decided to quit the factory, to give up everything and head for the south of France. He told his boss to go fuck himself, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do, you know people around here never go anywhere. They go straight from collège to the factory and they spend their whole life in the village or they move a couple of towns over but never too far. But your dad really up and left.
...it’s not like I’m for killing them or hanging them or putting them in camps like your dad is
So my father left. It must have been something he had often dreamed of doing. He imagined that down there the sun would make factory life more bearable, that the women there would be prettier. He left. He tried to find work in Toulon. My mother: He tried finding work as a barman but I imagine he spent more time at the bar drinking than actually asking for work. I don’t know if he maybe traded odd jobs for things, or what really went on, cause your dad isn’t exactly talkative, but I know he lived with an old lady. An old lady with lots of money. A Mormon if I remember right.
During his trip he had become friends with a young troublemaker (my mother said: a pick-pocketer; she was always mispronouncing things) who went by the name of Snow, an ironic nickname given his dark Maghrebi complexion. They became extremely close, spent all their nights together, and the pair of them would go out to pick up women. For a few months they were inseparable, but then my father came back north, for reasons my mother didn’t know. His past caught up with him, as if despite his best efforts there was no way to escape. This was something my mother didn’t understand: So that’s why your dad never talks about this stuff, his trip when he lived down south, because it’s pretty strange, it don’t make sense, when he says we should kill all the ragheads but then when he lived in the Midi his best mate was a raghead. I’m telling you this because I can’t figure out why your dad is such a racist, cause I’m not, even if it’s true the Arabs and the blacks get away with everything, and the government spends way too much money on them so there’s less for us, but still it’s not like I’m for killing them or hanging them or putting them in camps like your dad is.
Find out more about the author
‘Before I had a chance to rebel against the world of my childhood, that world rebelled against me. In truth, confronting my parents, my social class, its poverty, racism and brutality came second. From early on I provoked shame and even disgust from my family and others around me. The only option I had was to get away somehow. This book is an effort to understand all that.’
Édouard Louis grew up in Hallencourt, a village in northern France where many live below the poverty line. His bestselling debut novel about life there, The End of Eddy, has sparked debate on social inequality, sexuality and violence.
It is an extraordinary portrait of escaping from an unbearable childhood, inspired by the author’s own. Written with an openness and compassionate intelligence, ultimately, it asks, how can we create our own freedom?