by Édouard Louis
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Pub Date 05 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 05 Apr 2024
An autobiographical novel from Édouard Louis, hailed as one of the most important voices of his generation—about social class, transformation, and the perils of leaving the past behind.
One question took center stage in my life, it focused all of my thoughts and occupied every moment when I was alone with myself: how could I get this revenge, by what means? I tried everything.
Édouard Louis longs for a life beyond the poverty, discrimination, and violence in his working-class hometown—so he sets out for school in Amiens, and, later, university in Paris. He sheds the provincial “Eddy” for an elegant new name, determined to eradicate every aspect of his past. He reads incessantly; he dines with aristocrats; he spends nights with millionaires and drug-dealers alike. Everything he does is motivated by a single obsession: to become someone else. At once harrowing and profound, Change is not just a personal odyssey, a story of dreams and of “the beautiful violence of being torn away,” but a vividly rendered portrait of a society divided by class, power, and inequality.
“A breathless account . . . There’s the bracing directness of Louis’s prose, translated into English by John Lambert; the fitful structure, crammed with self-conscious annotations and swift shifts in form; the unsparing examination of poverty and extreme privilege in modern France; [and] the rendering of an appetite for better, different, more that can no longer reasonably be satisfied. Here, self-invention is an act of brutal violence with no discernable survivors.” —Marley Marius, Vogue (Best Books of 2024 So Far)
“Louis’ storytelling, in Lambert’s deft translation, is clear and intellectually robust but captures a tone of fear and anxiety; what he often calls ‘revenge,’ even on a family that might deserve it, is a corrosive feeling. A sharp chronicle of status climbing and its consequences.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“With frank prose and staggering insights, Louis makes the story of his metamorphosis feel vital and alive. This is irresistible.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“I feel so lucky to be living and writing at the same time as Édouard Louis. Reading the urgent, unspooling prose of Change—Louis’s latest account of a motley life lived so far—fills me with admiration and inspiration, as well as renewed faith in writing itself, and the value of paying persistent, pellucid attention to our relations, desires, histories, and selves.” —Maggie Nelson, author of On Freedom
“Édouard Louis is a master in the poetics of juxtaposition, elucidating the hostile and the intimate, the murky and the pure, the vulnerable and the resilient, the changeable and unchangeable of the world with his brilliant and preternatural intelligence. Change is a poignant and compelling read!” —Yiyun Li, author of Wednesday’s Child
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 16 members
While I was familiar with Édouard Louis and his memoir “The End of Eddy,” this was my first exposure to his writing. I found “Changes” to be a riveting and reflective exploration of a tough life, largely defined by a desire to escape and reinvent. Much of the novel is about Édouard’s life after leaving his hometown to attend school—and later his move to Paris to attend university. He is fleeing from poverty, ignorance, and homophobia but his feelings about his younger life are complicated—and not all bad. After he leaves home, he is continually remaking who he wants to be and the degree to which he wants to run away from his past and even the new life that he shapes for himself upon initially leaving home. At times, he experiences moments of “becoming” but is always searching for more and trying to understand his relationship to his past. I found this novel to be a beautiful, affecting, and poignant exploration of the degree to which we can truly reinvent ourselves and escape the vestiges of our past lives, even when we desperately need to.
I've read everything published so far by Édouard Louis, but CHANGE has got to be his best work to date. Though he often revisits the same moments of his childhood, and his escape, I found myself particularly taken by how he charts his trajectory into writing his first book, his life in Paris, all the changes he undergoes to relinquish his past. This is astonishing work. Thanks to the publisher for the e-galley!