Staff Member Ben Reviews Édouard Louis’ new novel End of Eddy

THE END OF EDDY, debut novel by French author Édouard Louis, chronicles in bare prose the author’s experience growing up gay in the tiny provincial municipality of Hallencourt. The France depicted by Louis in his autofiction is bleak: disappearing factory jobs have been replaced only by alcoholism and cardboard windows, family ties are worn thin by the friction of decades of passed-on abuse, and difference is punished by fist and spit in the hallways of Eddy’s primary school, like clockwork, by bullies who have hailed Eddy as gay before he understands, independently, what that means. “From my childhood I have no happy memories,” the text begins, though bitterness is not its dominant note; Louis, in achronological, almost essayistic chapters, explores concepts like “A Good Education” and “A Man’s Role” from a perspective that veers between detached and quasi-academic (“I do not know if the boys from the hallway would have referred to their own behavior as violent… For a man violence was something natural, self-evident”) and intimate and sensational (“Their breath stank of wine when they spoke to me, spraying my face with drops of spittle, the way drunk men do, and every time, almost without exception, they ended up talking about their hatred of gay people”). Louis seeks, in THE END OF EDDY, a resolution to questions of place and identity: how did poverty and the expectations of working-class masculinity make Eddy’s father (heavy drinker; degenerate couchdweller; sworn to never beat his sons the way his father beat him) who he is? and how did this father, this mother, and this town produce the out-of-place Eddy?