Edouard Louis is the rising star in the sphere of French Literature and one that I am greatly interested in. But the first fact about him that you need to know is also the one that gives the greatest insight into the underlying philosophy of this precocious writer.
It is that Edouard Louis isn’t his original name at all. He was born as Eddy Bellegueule in a working-class family of a town in northern France. The problems with poverty and economic angst is only part of the struggle he had to wage while growing up.
Being a homosexual and a person whose demeanor didn’t conform to the idea of raw masculinity that his father cherished meant that he was often ridiculed and chastised for his personality. Getting bullied in school was another layer of the discrimination that left a deep impression, more like a scar, on the personality of this young man.
But what makes his transformation into a writer even more appreciable was the distance he had with books as a child and then as a teenager. In various interviews of his that I have read, he has talked about how books were an abomination to his mother who regarded them as being offensive to people of their class. She complained about how these books have no representation of the community or the society that they belong to.
This is what Louis seeks to change. In an interview, he refers to how books are almost an ‘assault’ on the people of the social background he comes from as they tease them with the descriptions of the comforts that they would never have.
But where the relevance of Louis’s literature reaches an even higher level when it begins to delve into the political leanings of this underclass. What really caught my eye was when he revealed that his family and majority of voters in his village are supporters of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, a far-right party that has grown in importance over the last few years.
Louis points out that the votes for Le Pen, far from being an expression of prejudice and ignorance, is an assertion of their identity. He points out that people choose National Front because it is the only party that seems to talk to this class of people and promise to deal with the fears and concerns they have rather than patronizingly deeming them to be prejudice.
Throw in the complexities arising out of the homophobia he faced and what you get is a kaleidoscope of social attitudes and resultant social mores which sent me, and many others who read his writings, into a tizzy.
In the end, what Louis does is try and use literature as a tool for liberation and I think that is very impressive.
He sees it as means to empowering those whose voices have been lost or suppressed. Be it the poor class of underprivileged people or homosexuals who are dealing with a society that is so committed to set notions of masculinity that any deviation from them is considered contemptible.