It has been written that the parallels between these two bestselling books – one American, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, and the other French, En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule, or the translated title, The End of Eddy – are striking.
“Both are stories by precocious young men about the savagery of their childhoods. Both explore cultures of spectacular violence. Both are set in decaying manufacturing towns — places where the men and women scuff and strain against economic morbidity, class invisibility and narcotizing boredom. Yet these same men and women have a paradoxical relationship with the government, at once resenting its power and depending on its largess. Welfare is as common as rain.” Jennifer Senior, The New York Times Book Review.
“Both books became unexpected cultural phenomena. “The End of Eddy” sold 300,000 copies in its first year when Edouard Louis was 21; “Hillbilly Elegy” has been on The New York Times’s best-seller list for more than 40 weeks. And both authors, after escaping their hometowns against insuperable odds (“You don’t even understand that flight is an option,” Louis writes), have been recruited to interpret nativist movements in their countries. Louis has spent the last three years explaining the allure of Marine Le Pen while J.D. Vance spent the run-up to the 2016 election assaying the appeal of Donald J. Trump.” Jennifer Senior, The New York Times Book Review.
“TRUMP and LE PEN are the products of exclusion,” says Edouard Louis. His real name, before he changed it, was Eddy Bellegueule. The translation of Bellegueule is “beautiful face.” He’s 24 years old.
In his (autobiographical) novel, Bellegueule writes about his growing-up years in his village in the north of France, the violence he encountered daily and, in general, the destitute, poor French white working class. When he finished his manuscript, he sent it to a publishing house in Paris. The rejection letter he received said this: Poverty such as you describe it in your book no longer exists in France.
Last year his second book, Histoire de la violence, was published. Le Monde newspaper called it “splendid and distressing.”
To understand the phenomenal success of The End of Eddy, here are two must-read book reviews –