The End of Eddy – A Publishing Phenomenon: Background information when reading The End of Eddy

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The End of Eddy

by Edouard Louis

The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis X
The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis
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  • First Published:
    May 2017, 208 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2018, 208 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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The End of Eddy – A Publishing Phenomenon

This article relates to The End of Eddy

Print Review

Édouard Louis' The End of Eddy was originally published in French in 2014, when the author was just 21. Since then it has sold 300,000 copies in France and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

The French title gives an extra dimension to the story: En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule translates more literally to Finishing off Eddy Bellegueule. In an enlightening interview with the Paris Review, Louis says that "Eddy Bellegueule" is in fact the name his parents gave him. (Whether he means the name on his birth certificate or a family nickname, I'm not sure.) Thus, the title suggests that his father and others want to finish Eddy off because he is seen as unacceptable, and that Eddy longs to do away with his childhood self to make a new start.

Louis grew up in Hallencourt in northern France, where many people do indeed live below the poverty line. He therefore sees his book as being about the different forces that hold us back in life. "The real subject of the book is how people like the ones in my village suffer from exclusion, domination, poverty. ...I wrote the book to give a voice to these people, to fight for them and with them, because they seem to have disappeared from the public eye."

To his surprise, Louis has become a kind of representative of the working class in France. Although that may not have been his intention, he affirms the importance of literature engaging with politics. "All authors are political, even if they don't realize it. Being apolitical merely reinforces the status quo, supporting the powerful over the weak. …The people I write about are ceaselessly marked by the consequences of political choices."

Louis reveals that in writing about outsiders and the oppressed he was inspired by several black American writers (including Toni Morrison and James Baldwin), as well as Jean Genet's The Miracle of the Rose, about a man's experiences in prison, which has a famous scene in which the protagonist is spat on. He also admires Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich for her use of everyday speech in conveying Soviet oral histories, and Karl Ove Knausgaard for the audacity of his autobiographical form.

Reviewers have spotted these influences, along with those of Edmund White and Émile Zola, who was to the French social novel what Charles Dickens was to the British equivalent. "Publisher's [sic] hype all too often fails to deliver, but not this time," Eileen Battersby, the literary correspondent for the Irish Times, remarks at the end of her review of the novel. It will be fascinating to see if American readers take The End of Eddy to their hearts as much as European readers have.

Article by Rebecca Foster

This "beyond the book article" relates to The End of Eddy. It originally ran in May 2017 and has been updated for the May 2018 paperback edition.

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