Tying up Loose Ends: The End of Eddy
“Eddy’s a real Romeo, he’s always got girls around him, never boys. They are all after him.” On the surface, this sentence seems quite standard: A parent boasting about their offspring’s charisma. Have a gay man read it, and they can probably pinpoint a number of situations when their parents used it, or a variation of it, to try and deter doubts about his sexual orientation. In my case, it was mostly during one of the countless Sunday family lunches I was forced to take part in every week. My dad would wait for the opportune moment: normally right after dessert was finished, to launch into his speech about how I always had girlfriends over at the house. The eye contact he made with every person at the dining room table, which at this point did not include me anymore, served as a way to confirm his claims.
As you might have figured out, I hung out with girls during my younger years because I enjoyed their company. I could be myself around them without fear of judgement. Listening to a parental figure preach this monologue on a regular basis would result in the rush of 3 particular emotions in my body: embarrassment, resentment and fear. Embarrassed because everyone knew what my father was saying was false. Resentment towards myself for being flamboyant, and attracted to other boys. And finally, I was scared of what my future held, scared of disappointing my family and scared of not being able to "fix" myself.
What is this book about?
As a whole, The End of Eddy is largely built around these 3 feelings. Édouard Louis recounts his younger years growing up in a blue-collar village in the North of France. He depicts how his demeanour, his affinities, the way he talked, and acted were all subject to a heap of scrutiny and hate from everyone around him. The book is a firsthand account of how actively trying to deny who you are can damage your sanity.
This post’s opening sentence is on page fifty-four and is merely one of the many situations Louis describes with astute sharpness. The book is made out of themes instead of the regular chapters, which the writer proceeds to break down through the retelling of independent, and poignant anecdotes. The lack of linear storytelling serves the book immensely, as the different stories come to the reader in waves. Louis verbalises his past traumas in flashes while looking for a way to make it out of the fog.
The End Justifies the Means:
His honesty can be difficult to swallow at given points as he tears into every rough detail of his past with unforgiving violence. However, by placing his story in a written context he unwillingly presents his readers with a number of socio-economic reasons to why his parents, buddies, and bullies acted the way they did. All the aggression that comes out in his writings remains understandable as the End of Eddy is a literal and figurative catharsis that has allowed the author to put his lingering past behind him.
Édouard Louis’ story is just a small piece of a bigger, still underrepresented, narrative but it does prove that storytelling can help build empathy no matter who the reader is. In my case, reading this book brought back a lot of emotions that I had to work through during my early twenties. Today I’m a few months shy of my twenty-eighth birthday and the monologues spoken at Sunday lunches don’t sting as much anymore.
The book is shortlisted for this year's Albertine Prize which recognizes the American public's favourite work of contemporary Francophone fiction. You can vote for it here.