Change by Édouard Louis

In his new work, Édouard Louis presents an astounding portrait of self-transformation. Born Eddy Bellegueule, the idea that he could change himself entirely was formed at an early age. “I grew up in a world that rejected everything I was, and I experienced that as an injustice because—as I repeated to myself a hundred times a day, to the point of nausea—I didn’t choose what I was.” 

In his rural village, Louis is surrounded by others who question how he talks, walks, moves his hands, and looks at other boys. He overhears his father one night, “could it be that he’s a bit queer?”

Adamant to tell his father through a fictional conversation in the first part of the book, “I didn’t choose to walk the way I did, to talk the way I did, I didn’t understand why.” Louis continues that he was “a prisoner of himself.” At night he would dream of changing, of becoming someone else.

In an attempt to escape a life of poverty and violence in his hometown, Louis first flees to Amiens where he attends a lycée, a school that will prepare him for the baccalauréat to enter university. No one in his family has ever done so.

In Amiens, he meets Elena, a friend who aids his transformation. She inducts him into the middle class, teaching him about art, literature, and even table manners. Soon, Ambiens is not enough and he travels to Paris where he is accepted into the prestigious institution École Normale Supérieure.

“When I went back to see my father or mother we didn’t know what to say to each other, we no longer spoke the same language,” he writes, “everything I’d experienced in such a short time, everything I’d gone through, everything separated us.”

By his early twenties, Louis had changed his name in court and undergone several operations to transform his face, teeth, and hairline. “One by one I was erasing the traces of what I’d been,” he writes.

After attending a guest lecture by author Didier Eribon, Louis sets his mind on becoming a writer, and eventually publishes his debut, The End of Eddy.

This is a haunting and all consuming work of autofiction. Édouard Louis – in all his attempts to change, to escape – still remains bound to his past. This leads him to ask, “am I doomed always to hope for another life?”

Édouard Louis by John Folley / Opale / Leemage

Édouard Louis is the author of The End of Eddy, History of Violence, and Who Killed My Father, and the editor of a book on the social scientist Pierre Bourdieu. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, and Freeman’s. His books have been translated into thirty languages and have made him one of the most celebrated writers of his generation worldwide.

Change: A Novel by Édouard Louis, translated by John Lambert, is available for purchase in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. Check or for a retailer near you.

Avocado Diaries is part of the affiliate program and may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.