Édouard Louis in the New York Times:
Last month, the face of Marine Le Pen appeared on my computer screen. The headline under the picture read, “Marine Le Pen in Round 2.” The leader of France’s far-right National Front, she had advanced to a runoff vote in the presidential election. I immediately thought of my father, a hundred miles away.
I imagined him bursting with joy in front of the TV — the same joy he felt in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and the previous leader of the National Front, also made it to the second round. I remembered my father shouting, “We’re going to win!” with tears in his eyes.
I grew up in Hallencourt, a tiny village in Northern France where, until the 1980s, nearly everyone worked for the same factory. By the time I was born, in the 1990s, after several waves of layoffs, most of the people around me were out of work and had to survive as best they could on welfare. My father left school at 14, as did his father before him. He worked for 10 years at the factory. He never got a chance to be laid off: One day at work, a storage container fell on him and crushed his back, leaving him bedridden, on morphine for the pain.
I knew the feeling of being hungry before I knew how to read. From the time I was 5 my father would order me to go down the street and knock on the door of one of my aunts to ask if she could spare some pasta or bread for our table.