An autobiographical novel about growing up gay in a working-class town in Picardy.
“Every morning in the bathroom I would repeat the same phrase to myself over and over again . . . Today I’m really gonna be a tough guy.” Growing up in a poor village in northern France, all Eddy Bellegueule wanted was to be a man in the eyes of his family and neighbors. But from childhood, he was different—“girlish,” intellectually precocious, and attracted to other men.
Already translated into twenty languages, The End of Eddy captures the violence and desperation of life in a French factory town. It is also a sensitive, universal portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening. Like Karl Ove Knausgaard or Edmund White, Édouard Louis writes from his own undisguised experience, but he writes with an openness and a compassionate intelligence that are all his own. The result—a critical and popular triumph—has made him the most celebrated French writer of his generation.
In this excellent autobiographical novel, a middle school boy struggles to forge an identity in a French industrial town hostile in every way to his homosexuality. Beset on all sides by violent bullying, verbal ridicule, and a lack of familial support, Eddy Bellegueule has devoted himself, despite his high voice and effeminate mannerisms, to becoming a "tough guy" like his unemployed father. A series of heartbreaking setbacks occurs, including two failed relationships with women, which culminates with Eddy's mother discovering him in a compromising sexual situation. The story finally leads to a powerful farewell scene between Eddy and his father, a momentary demonstration of devotion inextricable from the years of pain that the man has caused the boy. Already translated into 20 languages, this concise novel adroitly captures the downstream effects of reactionary rural culture, heightened by the rise of hard-right ideology and the destabilization of the working class in contemporary Europe, granting its reader an extraordinary portrait of trauma and escape.
The Truth Be Told…
I have to admit having a connection through family to France drew me to this “novel”… which reads more like a memoir. The timing is later than my own life in the U.S., but much of the small town prejudice and shallow minds, limited world view, rings true. His use of italicized text to insert conversations and quotations expanded to narrative and added an element of truth, though frequently shocking and depressing, to the story. The blue collar class in France shares many of the culturally deprived elements that is also present in the U.S.. Although I sympathized with the brutality of Eddy’s life, I was drawn to the book, hoping that his life would find a brighter future.
I first read an NPR review of Édouard Louis' novel and, always in want of more gay literature, I decided to give this a go. I'm so glad I did. The emotional rollercoaster that Édouard Louis brings you on make you just want to run in and save his younger self while unveiling great truths about life in poverty and growing up in the closet. I was sobbing at the end of the novel yet wanting more. Highly recommend.