When we ask the American intellectual Ruth Gilmore what the word racism means to her, she replies that racism is the exposition of certain populations to a premature death.
This definition also works for male domination, the hatred of homosexuality, or of transgenders, class domination and all phenomena of social and political oppression.***
In this short book of less than 100 pages, read for the “Roman de Rochefort” prize, Edouard Louis revisits one of the many themes of his book examining his own childhood in Picardy “The End of Eddy“. In this initial work Eddy’s father was a product of his upbringing and life, basically promulgating the creed of machoism, alcohol to the detriment of self improvement and woe betide anyone including his family who did not conform. Here Edouard Louis revisits his father, remembering as best as he can his every interaction with this father and explaining politically who his father was, how he became who he was, and his evolution since that date. The book opens telling us clearly in which direction it will take us, illustrated in the opening quote.
After reassessing his relationship with his father, openly trying to put the good moments in perspective with the bad, including his fathers playful moments such as driving his car at dangerous speeds to annoy his wife whilst winking at Eddy in the mirror as opposed to the story of his hiding the christmas presents in the car and having a hit and run driver crush the car setting him into a wild rage, Edouard Louis visits his father who he has not seen for some time and we discover a premature old and unwell man:
The problems began in the factory where you worked…..one afternoon we received a call from the factory telling us that a weight had fallen on you. Your back had been crushed, squashed, they told us you would be unable to walk for several years.***
Edouard Louis’ father is then exposed to a premature death due to class domination, where he perpetuated his own fathers class and due to social and political oppression, and here Edourd Louis examines the real effect on his father and his father’s condition of this oppression, using his father to represent his class, the style of this “pamphlet”, naming the politicians and the effects of their decisions, is illustrated here:
In 2009 Nicolas Sarkozy’s government and his accomplice Martin Hirsch replaced the RMI, a minimum payed by the state to people without work, by the RSA. You had received the RMI ever since you had been unable to work: the change from the RMI to the RSA was “to incite the return to employment” as the government put it. The truth of the matter is that from then on you were constantly harased by the state to get back to work, in spite of your disastrous state of health, in spite of what the factory had done to you.***
His father who had been totally opposed to any political activity, in part due to fear of the police and the judicial system, as Eddy was growing up, finishes by asking him if he is still politically active, and we understand that time and his father have moved on as he assents that it is good that he is still active. In the relative absence of wide political discussion, sure there are politicians and journalists, Edouard Louis’ is a voice with a wide readership adding his deeply rooted thoughts to the debate.
First Published in French as “Qui a tué mon père” in 2018 by Editions du Seuil.
To be published in English in 2019 by New Directions Publishing Corporation.
*** My translation