Thanks to translator Lorin Stein [the translation of History of Violence] has retained its complexity, its startling physicality and its moral subtlety in English ... Louis’s greatest strength as a writer is that he feels things so passionately, sometimes to the point of obsession, but that he also has a philosophical turn of mind that explores, rather than neutralises, his feelings.... The novel is superb at vividly recording the post-traumatic repercussions of rape.
Édouard Louis does not hold back... Louis not only possesses the righteous indignation of youth, but the momentum of a true literary phenomenon.... History of Violence is a slim but densely layered novel that begins with raw urgency, but then slows and circles the attack, hovering over it with an unnerving luxury.
a shocking, powerful book that doubles as an indictment of homophobia and racism in French culture — just don’t judge it by the opening sentence, which is so tangled and dense that diagramming it would require a grammatical savant.
A profoundly personal book ... The self-consciousness can occasionally feel contrived, or at least French, but the book at heart is both brave and ambitious in its determination never to let its reader, or its author, escape lightly the damaging realities it describes.
Louis’s nonfiction novel is precisely arranged and quietly devastating as it narratively circles the horrific act of violence at its center... a deeply unsettling work that painstakingly reconstructs a terrible event and its aftereffects.
...a powerful story of the damage sexual assault does to its victims, and of the slow but uncertain healing that, at least in this case, follows ... Louis is telling us this story not so that we’ll understand, but rather so that we can be changed by the power of the story itself.
The consuming nature of suffering sets the stage for The End of Eddy and closes the curtains on History of Violence. Taken together, the two form a diptych on suffering—exploring how suffering writes our lives and how, through writing, we might reimagine suffering ... In Lorin Stein’s brutal and precise translation, Louis recounts the unmooring brought about by this violent experience ... In this harrowing work, we don’t just tell ourselves stories in order to live. We tell ourselves stories in order to survive.
History of Violence can likewise pack total immersion and cool detachment into a single page. As translator, Lorin Stein keeps faith with its rawness — and its refinement. Even in his panic, Édouard must analyse ... A novelist as much as a memoirist, Louis can even imagine the life of the rapist ... As a fictionalised record of a rape, Louis’ novel addresses the particular harm inflicted by sexual violence and its official aftermath.
Louis veers between deep emotion and a forensic study of the night in question. It’s as if he is using his writing to understand whether, in fact, he’s culpable in some way and exactly how the encounter changed from consensual sex to rape. It makes for a heartbreaking read ... I’m not entirely sure why Louis chooses to use the term ['novel], as it diminishes, for me, the impact of the work. I want to believe that every word on the page is true, because, if they’re not, then I feel manipulated as a reader ... Issues of literary identity aside, I find myself captivated by Édouard Louis’s books and his raw honesty.
From this initial winding sentence, the reader is plunged into, then relentlessly yet smoothly propelled through Édouard Louis’s autobiographical novel History of Violence (translated by Lorin Stein; 212 pages; FSG). The entire experience of reading the book is of baited breath, entrancing ... Yet History of Violence asserts Louis’s conviction in the importance of weaving such complex and intimate narratives about Reda ... Louis’s stories offer us valuable critiques of the systemic conditions that create people like Reda, and make us more aware of the cycle of violence that marginalized groups are especially vulnerable to ... Bravely, heartbreakingly, and with stark clarity, Édouard Louis uses the stories within the story of History of Violence to reconfigure his worldview, and in doing so, helps us to reconfigure ours.
...despite subject matter that could easily have ended up being sensationalist, self-involved, or mawkish, History of Violence doesn’t disappoint ... If there’s anything wrong with History of Violence, it’s only that it ends too soon. But that may be only the pressure of wanting to follow up a successful first novel with a second one before too much time goes by.
The sense of exclusion – from middle-class privileges and from the narratives that form society’s understanding of itself – hangs heavy in Louis’s intense and uncomfortably thrilling book ... Clara’s breathless run-ons mirror the complex brilliance of Louis’s more formal phrasing, raising the crucial question of the hierarchy of language. To whose narrative style do we attribute more importance: the everyday or the refined? Who do we trust with our expectations of authenticity – the now-Parisian, educated Louis, or his country sister? And who is telling whose story? Lorin Stein’s assured translation manages to capture the almost hypnotic rhythms of Louis’s original, and it crucially retains the warmth of Clara’s idiosyncratic Picardy-infused expressions without ever flirting with working-class parodies – an essential element in a novel that is unflinching in its examination of class and discrimination.