With remarkable delicacy and understanding, Louis conveys the relationship between a father and a son whose love for each other is so fierce and so hard to assimilate to their experience of masculinity that it often can be mistaken for hatred... The careful, deliberate narrative reads as if Louis were testifying, or building a case for a jury in real time... Who Killed My Father reads like a hinge work between Louis’s early autobiographical fiction and the mature writing that is surely to come: perhaps a gilets jaunes Germinal for the 21st century.
Originally published six months before the first gilets jaunes protests, Louis’ barbed prose delivers a warning to the French elite about the poverty and underlying anger of the working classes. When it was reported last June that the book was being read by Emmanuel Macron’s advisers, Louis tweeted a warning to the French president not to appropriate the working-class struggles that he lays at the door of the Elysée Palace. Louis often makes society’s complex problems appear simple, with obvious victims and clear perpetrators. The book is not a meditation, but a judgment. Yet this valuable tale brings emotion to a discussion led by numbers, encouraging us to remember the real human lives affected by policy and political point-scoring.
This book, published in France more than a year ago, is a short, sharp shock of a coda to that novel, which ended when the author/narrator changed his name, moved away from the small town he grew up in and went off to study philosophy in Paris. It is written as a long letter from Louis to his father, the figure who remains his inarticulate muse – drunk and obese and mostly housebound after the industrial accident that crushed his spine and his spirit, and left him unable to care for his wife and seven children. The author does not so much put words into his old man’s mouth as seek to find some hard-won common ground with him... Louis sacrifices some of the nuance of his first novel for a more bludgeoning polemical directness. The result, even so, speaks with an emotional authenticity and a stylistic confidence that is hard to ignore.
This book offers an insight into the present division between France and the West, between those who succeed in a global world and those who are forgotten. Louis believes President Macron is a leader elected by winners and he has criticised Macron’s government for being excessively tough on the “left behind”. He has also defended the Gilets Jaunes movement for standing up for their rights. “Every person who has insulted a gilet jaune has insulted my father,” he declared on social media.