2020 Shortlist

History of Violence


Translated from the French by Lorin Stein

2020 Shortlist

Dramatised reading of History of Violence, performed by Johnny Ward and produced by Bazar Productions.

Irish writers Caelainn Hogan and Jessica Traynor discuss History of Violence and speak to the book’s author Édouard Louis, and translator Lorin Stein.


Comments from the Judging Panel

Édouard Louis plunges us into an apparently ordinary world where everything can be blown away at the first breath of wind, where there is not only physical danger, but our preconceptions might also get smashed to smithereens along the way. One evening, the main character brings a stranger home, and is subjected to an horrific assault. However, Louis shows us that the aftermath of an attack can be an equally powerful form of brutality. History of Violence, with a taut translation from French by Lorin Stein, is a daring exploration of violence, sexuality and race in contemporary France.

About Novel

I met Reda on Christmas Eve 2012, at around four in the morning. He approached me in the street, and finally I invited him up to my apartment. He told me the story of his childhood and how his father had come to France, having fled Algeria. We spent the rest of the night together, talking, laughing. At around 6 o’clock, he pulled out a gun and said he was going to kill me. He insulted me, strangled and raped me. The next day, the medical and legal proceedings began.

History of Violence retraces the story of that night, and looks at immigration, class, racism, desire and the effects of trauma in an attempt to understand a history of violence, its origins, its reasons and its causes.

About the Author

Édouard Louis is the author of two novels and has edited a book on the social scientist Pierre Bourdieu. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and Freeman’s. His first two novels, The End of Eddy and History of Violence, have been translated into thirty languages.

Librarian’s Comments

It is a book about a trauma – a man is raped – and what it is to write it, tell it and share it. Bibliothèque municipale de Colmar, France



Harvill Secker


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