Home > 2010, 21st Century, French Literature, Non Fiction > Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis – Insightful

Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis – Insightful

February 3, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis (2018) Original French title: Qui a tué mon père.

Ta vie prouve que nous ne sommes pas ce que nous faisons, mais qu’au contraire nous sommes ce que nous n’avons pas fait, parce que le monde ou la société, nous en a empêchés. Parce que ce que Didier Eribon appelle des verdicts se sont abattus sur nous, gay, trans, femme, noir, pauvre, et qu’ils nous ont rendu certaines vies, certaines expériences, certains rêves, inacessibles. Your life proves that we are not what we do but in the contrary, we are what we haven’t done because the world or society was in the way. Because what Didier Eribon calls sentences have descended upon us, gays, trans, women, black or poor and these sentences have made some lives, some experiences or some dreams unreachable to us.

Who Killed My Father is a short non-fiction book by Edouard Louis, the young author of The End of Eddy. It was published on May 3rd, 2018, the exact date is relevant. Edouard Louis is also a graduate of EHESS, the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. Sociology is his territory.

In Who Killed My Father, he comes back to his complicated relationship with his father and his social background. We understand that his father had to stop working because of a work-related accident, that his back is wrecked and that his life has been even tougher than what is described in The End of Eddy.

This short non-fiction opus is a description of the social violence done to his father and by extension, to a large part of the working class. He describes the impact of public decisions on social benefits from his father’s perspective. Through snippets of life, we see what political decisions make on the life of a man broken by hard working conditions. He gives specific examples, gives the names of the politicians who promoted a particular measure and throws them back what this or that decision entailed for the recipients of social benefits or for poor workers.

This is his father. He’s a representative of an important part of the population whose life conditions are degraded after liberal capitalism won the economic sphere and politics became a synonym of managing short-term finances.

Describing how his father was forced to take a job that was not compatible with his health condition, he rocks the boat of the generally admitted law that any job is better than no job. It becomes an excuse to accept with jobs with appalling working conditions. At the Davos summit, Winnie Byanyima, an Oxfam executive director mentioned her meeting with poultry workers in the US who had to wear nappies because they had no toilet breaks. I didn’t ven know it was legal. Shocking, right? But not surprising when you’ve read A Working Stiff’s Manifesto by Iain Levison.

The end of Who Killed My Father is the following:

Le mois dernier, quand je suis venu te voir, avant que je parte, tu m’as demandé : « Tu fais encore de la politique ? » — le mot encore faisait référence à ma première année de lycée, quand j’avais adhéré à un parti d’extrême gauche et qu’on s’était disputés parce que tu pensais que j’allais avoir des ennuis avec la justice à force de participer à des manifestations illégales. Je t’ai dit « Oui, de plus en plus. » Tu as laissé passer trois ou quatre secondes, tu m’as regardé et enfin tu as dit : « Tu as raison. Tu as raison, je crois qu’il faudrait une bonne révolution » Last month, when I came to visit, before I left you asked me: “Are you still involved in politics?” – the word still referred to my freshman year of high school, when I subscribed to an extreme-left political party and when we argued about it because you thought I’d end up in trouble with the law with my participation to illegal demonstrations. I told you “Yes, I am. More than ever”. You let three or four seconds pass, you looked at me and finally said: “You’re right. You’re right, I think we need a good old revolution”

Publication date: May 2018. Beginning of the Yellow Vests movement: November 2018. Genuine participants to this movement: people like Edouard Louis’s father.

I read Who Killed My Father before the movement started. It stayed with me because it hit me right in the face. Edouard Louis sometimes irritates me, and certainly, he’s got his own issues. But I think it’s good for the country to have thinkers who come from the working class and who understand things that are oblivious to the ruling bourgeoisie because this reality is simply not part of their quotidian.

I wondered what Edouard Louis thought of the Yellow Vests movement and I found a great article here at The Inrocks.

  1. February 3, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Like you, there are elements of Edouard Louis’ oeuvre which irritate me, but on the whole, I think his is a necessary voice, especially in the rather rarefied, intellectual air of the French (or English, or American) publishing industry. And the Gilets Jaunes, like any other mass movement, voices legitimate concerns and protest, but can also be hijacked for others’ more nefarious purposes.


    • February 3, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      I couldn’t say it better. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. February 3, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    From the intro to The End of Eddy I was led to Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon, a book I devoured at one sitting. It is a remarkable book of sociological enquiry and critical theory: this may sound dull, but it is gripping. It is illuminating about the direction of leftist politics and a fascinating study of sexual identity and how this can clash with other aspects of one’s identity. Formidable!


    • February 3, 2019 at 8:32 pm

      From what I read on Wikipedia, Didier Eribon was a mentor to Edouard Louis. It’s very interesting that you naturally made the link between the two.
      I’m not good with non-fiction. I get lost, distracted, I never remember what I read and often, I don’t even understand what I read if the reasoning is too philosophical or too “intellectual”. I don’t have the right education to read that kind of books. I’m missing out, I know, that’s why I try to read novels that compensate this flaw of mine. 🙂


      • February 3, 2019 at 8:36 pm

        I came to zero on through the mentions at the beginning of The End of Eddy. I too find lots of philosophical writing that I think I should read way beyond my understanding but zero on really grabbed me. One for you TBR pile?


        • February 4, 2019 at 2:26 pm

          Maybe. I’m on a book buying ban, though.


  3. February 3, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Really interesting review Emma, it sounds relevant to many economies, certainly the UK where I live.


    • February 3, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      It’s relevant in the Western world since Reagan and Thatcher imposed their vision of economy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. February 4, 2019 at 9:35 am

    I follow Australian and US politics, and yes I only read left wing views, but still I think the ‘silent majority’ are finally realizing that neo liberal policies benefit no one but the very rich. Unfortunately they are the class who own the news media and bribe (sorry, lobby) the politicians.


    • February 4, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      I think there’s a bit of awareness but not enough. The most damaging trend is the idea that there is no other alternative.
      I’d love to take the CEOs of Davos and have them work in this poultry factory wearing diapers. It’d be interesting to see how they feel at the end of one working week.


  5. Vishy
    October 17, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    Wonderful review, Emma! I loved the last passage of the book you’ve shared! Very beautiful and made me think a lot! I loved the way Édouard Louis’ relationship with his father changed across the years, and how father himself evolved as a person. One of my favourite passages about his father was this one –

    “You’ve changed these past few years. You’ve become a different person. We’ve talked, a lot. We’ve explained ourselves. I’ve told you how I resented the person you were when I was a child – how I resented your hardness, your silence, the scenes that I’ve just described – and you’ve listened. And I have listened to you. You used to say the problem with France was the foreigners and the homosexuals, and now you criticise French racism. You ask me to tell you about the man I love. You buy the books I publish. You give them to people you know. You changed from one day to the next. A friend of mine says it’s the children who mould their parents and not the other way round. But because of what they’ve done to your body, you will never have a chance to uncover the person you’ve become.”

    It is a beautiful passage about how the relationship between parents and children can change across the years and become better, and how a person can evolve and become a better version of himself. I also loved the passage you shared at the beginning of the review about how we are defined by the things that we don’t and can’t do. It was sad and heartbreaking to read. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts 😊


  1. February 28, 2021 at 11:56 am

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