Edouard Louis (Hallencourt, 1992) is 30 years old but has lived countless lives, from associating with princes and philosophers to prostitution with people who repelled him to pay for orthodontics. Always in a race to escape poverty and the insults of her childhood for being effeminate. And to prove to his parents, his northern people and himself that he was more. better He finished at the benchmark École Normale Supérieur in Paris. And he triumphed with Adéu a l'Eddy Bellegueule, a portrait of the humiliations of his childhood. He is now publishing Change: method (More Books / Salamandra), the story of his incredible physical, intellectual and social transformation. The reader will decide if he is taken advantage of, as he sometimes doubts, or if there is esteem in his exchanges and it all comes from the domination he has suffered.
Are you like Stendhal's upstart Julien Sorel? Like the subversive Genet from the autobiographical Thief's Diary?
I re-read these great books on transformation to prepare mine. Also Balzac and his Rastignac, many Zola books, even La Traviata. Stories of metamorphosis and social transformation were central to literature and have disappeared. I wanted to reactivate them. The transformation gives rise to very specific experiences and forms of violence. What does it mean to transform? When I presented the book, many people told me: "I come from popular classes, I escaped my social fate and wanted to be a writer, but I didn't do it because I thought it wasn't my legitimate role." Or they wanted to be university teachers but it seemed too much for them and they are school teachers. Who speaks today of this violence, of the melancholy of transformation, of the impossibilities when you escape?
Do we not accept the transformation of the other?
If you come from the bourgeoisie you are very likely to follow the bourgeoisie, and when you are born into the popular classes you are likely to stay there. The school system already reproduces inequality, children from popular classes are eliminated little by little, unconsciously. I wanted to talk about how this social reproduction happens individually every day. Foucault called it micropower. You try to transform yourself, to be someone else, and those around you tell you: this is not your place, who made you, you are pretentious. Anecdotal phrases that together are a political technology to maintain social order.
Is everything he explains in the book real experiences?
Yes, I am interested in the brutality of the autobiography, how it confronts the readers. They ask me all the time: "But you introduced a bit of fiction", as if that could relieve them. Perhaps fiction today assumes a conservative function of soothing the masses. Autobiography is more radical. For me, the body is the mirror of truth, of the objectivity of the world. My father's body is 57 years old and he can't breathe without a machine. This cannot be written any other way. From the body, what literature can say is formidable, it has enormous power.
Where are you in your change process? At the end of the book he is melancholy about his harsh childhood.
My transformation is never finished. During my childhood I lived suffocated because others called me ladybug, because of my father's homophobia. He wanted to run away, like so many gay kids. In the years when my brain was forming my great dream was to escape. You can never break with that. For me it was important to give place to this melancholy in the book. A lot of people told me I couldn't write it, I can't complain. If you come from a dominant environment and you're melancholy, people see your poetry, if you come from a dominated environment, you complain. We don't all have the same right to melancholy.