The Unchanging Same: On Édouard Louis's “A Woman's Battles and Transformations” – lareviewofbooks
August 25, 2022 • By Eric Newman
A Woman’s Battles and Transformations
It was as if [Angelique’s] romantic depression, a psychological factor, had somehow rendered porous the usual laws of sociology — the fact that people from a certain milieu socialize only with those of the same milieu, and that there is virtually no possible mixing between social classes. […] When you spoke of her, you shrugged and said: We weren’t good enough for her anyway. You felt abandoned, and you were, you were alone.
You told me how Catherine Deneuve had come and stood in front of your building and had suggested having a smoke and a chat. “I was looking around discreetly while we talked because I hoped as many people as possible would see me talking with her. I wanted everyone to know that Catherine Deneuve was talking to me.”
I had never heard such emotion in your voice, as if this interaction with an actor you’d admired since you were young represented and condensed all the efforts you had made in your transformation. You summed it up, brow furrowed: “I’ve been pushed around all my life, but now I’m in Paris and I know Catherine Deneuve.”
In what I know of her today, there are dozens of images and facts that contradict [my mother’s] simple story of a happy transformation. She has never traveled outside of France; she continues to buy food at low-cost supermarkets for the poor on the outskirts of Paris; she doesn’t earn any money, so she still relies on the man she lives with; she can’t make friends with the people in the neighborhood, the rich women on her street who look at her condescendingly. She admits: “There are days when I get bored. I don’t have friends here. People here aren’t like us.”
Is a change still a change when it is circumscribed to this extent by class violence?
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