Skip to main content

Jacobin - January 3, 2022

With his works selling hundreds of thousands of copies in thirty languages, you might think Édouard Louis risks losing touch with reality. But upon meeting the twenty-nine-year-old writer, I find his humility and frankness are disarming. The radicalism of his words when he defends his class — the working class — contrasts starkly with the softness of his voice. Yes, Édouard Louis is angry. But even anger can be beautiful when it appears in fine prose.For Édouard Louis, a politically committed writer has to buckle down, “on the ground.” Involved in the national council for high schoolers from age sixteen, in 2018, he joined the railroad workers’ fight against the privatization of France’s national rail network, and then the protests against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms. And if this young writer is continually invited to mingle in bourgeois circles, he’s not afraid of being “recuperated.” “I wrote my book in my own little neck of the woods. And then one day I sent in my first book by mail. I didn’t know anyone. I’d gone to print out my book in a copy center. I borrowed €30 from friends to print my manuscript four times. I sent it to publishers and I was published. I owe nothing to the bourgeoisie.”In an interview first published in French by Solidaire, Jonathan Lefèvre spoke to Édouard Louis about his political commitment and the power of class hatred today.

What gave you the taste for political commitment?

In my childhood, I knew that politics was something important. At first, I had private memories of politics rather than political ones. I remember when there was a reform in France that put conditions on the welfare system — so you had to show that you were working and show that you deserved even these minimum benefits. All of a sudden, the administration would phone or send letters to my father: “You have to prove that you have been looking for work, if you want to continue receiving benefits. You’ll have to show that you’re not sat at home.” At the time, I didn’t know what a party was, what a reform was, etc., but I could see that someone had made a political decision and, suddenly, in my father’s flesh, in my father’s body, something had abruptly changed. So, very early on, I had a form of political awareness that then grew and grew. When I went to lycée — and I was the first in my family to continue studying beyond school-leaving age — I was suddenly confronted with more bourgeois, more privileged environments. And there I saw the gap between the world of my childhood and that world. And that made me aware of social violence and injustice. ...
Read full interview at Jacobin