Through a non-chronological series of memories—fragments of his childhood concerning his father—Louis takes aim at the self-defeating masculine ethos of the place where he grew up ... 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.
... a brief, poetic telling of the myriad ways societal contempt, homophobia, and poverty can kill a man ... Louis' clear-sighted awareness of this masculine insanity allows him to paint a sympathetic portrait ... There is a universality to this story — the child's longing for acceptance contrasted with the mature son's painful journey to understand why his father behaved as he did ... Capturing the macro and micro culprits in Who Killed My Father, Louis serves as both raconteur and son, expressing deep and considered empathy for a man whose absence looms large.
Louis offers damning realism in the service of structural critique ... At first glance, coming in at just over a hundred pages, Who Killed My Father seems slighter, less momentous than [Louis’s] previous work... It quickly becomes clear, however, that the new book has a force and immediacy all its own ... If The End of Eddy gave the French literary public a window onto the social world of people they didn’t know existed (or whose existence they had gladly ignored), Who Killed My Father is a crucial text for a moment when those people are refusing to die quietly ... Perhaps the son, improbably, has been able to resuscitate his father.
Who Killed My Father puts on a comparably dogged performance, its sights trained desperately on the parent who is its subject ... Who Killed My Father is written in an intimate but self-consciously artificial second person, as the son dredges up memories for his unresponsive dad ... Who Killed My Father presents the deadening stasis from which Louis fled as a symptom of the structural forces of patriarchy and capitalism. Though that stasis itself is rendered vividly, Louis’s analysis remains abstract until the book’s final ten pages, which rehearse a series of humiliations ... The clarity [of certain passages] is rousing but rings a bit false, not because it’s wrong but because the reconciliation between writer and father is so suddenly, improbably frictionless ... Louis is right that he has more to say.
But Who Killed My Father isn’t really a memoir. Rather, it is a political document that uses the force of memoir — incisive, confessional personal details — to bolster its argument that Louis’s father’s life (and by extension, Louis’s family) was ruined by politics ... because Who Killed My Father is an act of an author baring himself before his audience, these political bits are simply less compelling than the personal writing. It’s simply strange to go from reading nakedly memoiristic passages to others that are stridently political; the shift in tone and content (from revealing scenes, to lecturing and drawing conclusions) isn’t always as smooth as one might like ... The tension between the personal and the political and which is driving Who Killed My Father is sustained for the book’s length ... one reads [this book] for insight into human nature and excellent writing, which Louis’s book contains in spades. It is an irony specific to the book that it is those very memoiristic elements, which the author may well consider secondary to his overall thesis, that make it so compelling.
Looking back, Louis unpicks the contributions of toxic masculinity, social isolation and economic deprivation to his father’s struggle and his family’s pain. The result is a challenge to society’s unfettered praise of individual responsibility and its blindness to systemic injustice ... Louis’ barbed prose delivers a warning to the French elite about the poverty and underlying anger of the working classes ... 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 ... 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. It is a kind of love letter, but one that admits only the bluntest truths ... In short, intense bursts of prose Louis unpacks the reality of...shame, by examining over and again the sources of it in what has gone on between himself and his father ... The sentiments...in this small book, are not straightforwardly persuasive, and they offer few interesting answers. 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.
Louis’s writing is captivating in its incisiveness and its crisp, parsimonious style. He draws on his personal experiences to evoke a vivid range of sentiments, such as absence, grief, humiliation, helplessness and anger. He makes effective use of allusion, too: he thus reinforces the anonymous, fleeting quality of his father’s life by not giving him a name, and referring to the place where he lives as an 'ugly northern town' ... by the end of the book, for reasons which are not made entirely clear, redemption has occurred: reconciled with his son, his father renounces his racism and even enquires about the man Louis loves.
... a short, wrenching, tender-hearted essay ... The book is lean and understated. The paragraphs, some no more than a couple lines, are set as self-contained fragments, each a bright memory or insight flashing before the next jump cut ... Like many remembrances of a parent, Who Killed My Father is structured as a mystery story without a plot. The son sees clues everywhere, but they don’t solve anything.
In Who Killed My Father, Louis seems to have learned, launching a counter-attack in the attempt to make the book bourgeois-proof ... The homecoming recounted in this book, linking the intimate with the political, does not blunt Louis’s message, but sharpens it to a fine point ... This is not politics as love, but love as politics. A declaration to his father becomes a manifesto.
... a short pamphlet of fewer than a hundred pages, with none of the precision or seriousness of [Louis's] two novels ... whisper-thin but thick with fury ... The social determinism of History of Violence has hardened into dogma now, and in Who Killed My Father Louis takes it to extremes ... Louis is only twenty-six. He has time enough to step back from the sudden fame centered on his own autobiography and to formulate a politics that treats racism and homophobia, not to mention rape and attempted murder, as more than epiphenomena.
... the question the reader may pose to Who Killed My Father is not one that doubts Louis’ veracity or moral integrity, but simply the question: 'OK. What’s new?' ... Curious in the way that if one rolls a word around one’s tongue enough times, it begins to lose meaning. In the way a reader might think: 'Yes, thank you, we got it the first time' ... like any intelligent writer, Louis teases out confounding contradiction. But then, Louis remains committed to conclusions as well; confident proclamations about the nature of his father ... The problem is: I don’t believe Louis actually does convince anyone except someone like me, someone who already agrees. I wish dearly for him not to sound so trite, but there it is ... Even comparing Louis to his French peers, it’s doubtful he has does enough to stand with the best, partly because he’s so bent on waging a war with ambiguity.
Sometimes, the author’s attempts to connect his family’s tragedy to world events go too far, such as when he invokes concentration camps. More relevant are his critiques of French politicians ... Whatever one’s politics, readers of this impassioned work are likely to be moved by the Louis family’s plight and the love, however strained, between the author and his father ... As this poignant book shows, there are still walls—within families, between leaders and citizens—that need to be torn down.