Edouard Louis seems fascinated by violence. But there is a good reason for that. He knows violence all to well. Some years ago, while returning home from a party, he met an Algerian man whom he invited to his house. This man ended up raping him.
But this wasn’t the first time Edouard faced violence in his life. His childhood and adolescent years were full of being bullied by boys in school and excoriated by his father for his supposedly effeminate manner.
History Of Violence
It’s not surprising that he has written a novel called the History of Violence.This novel is a retelling of the gruesome rape incident and the horrible trauma that Edouard had to bear following it.
But while writing the novel ‘History of Violence,’ the author had one major challenge. He knew that as soon as the Algerian identity of the rapist is revealed, the racial prejudices of the people would come into play and detract from the core of his work – the understanding of violence. In order to avoid this, he chose to make his sister another narrator in the book and thereby bring into sharp relief the similar social background that both he and his attacker come from. I think this was a brilliant move.
But as stated above, the core of the novel is the analysis of violence. Having experienced it personally in his life, Edouard understands it better than most people. In various interviews he has talked about how violence seems normal to those habituated to it.
And it’s not just physical violence that I think he is worried about. It’s also violence that is manifested in the form of other types of aggression. The verbal humiliation is something that could be as damaging as physical blows. But the answer to violence, Edouard insists, is to face the truth rather than run away from it.
Core Of The Novel
The more people understand violence, he says, the more would they become disinclined towards it. The History of Violence is, not as the name suggests, a sociological or historical analysis of the history of mankind and its dealings with violence but a personal retelling of a painful story that the author is trying to come to terms with. I see this as a brilliant example of how one man’s experience can be a window into the mentality of the whole world.
In the process, he is bringing to light a topic that has remained taboo for far too long – male rape. In fact, I haven’t read any novel which deals with this issue. While literature and even pop culture has dealt with the plight of women facing sexual assault, the travails of a man who has gone through similar experiences is often ignored.
The attitude of the society is also not very helpful. He recounts how it was he who was criticized when he mentioned his own story to people around him and the laxity in the way the police reacted to the whole incident.
I think Louis is trying to, in his own words, ‘reclaim his story.’ He tries to fight both stigma and prejudice and bring the ugliness of violence to the readers, to make them understand what actually happens when violence takes place. This, he feels, is the best way to reduce violence in this world and I agree with him.