Returning to Reims
256 pp., 6 x 9 in,
- Published: September 13, 2013
A memoir and a meditation on individual and class identity, and the forces that keep us locked in political closets.
On thinking the matter through, it doesn't seem exaggerated to assert that my coming out of the sexual closet, my desire to assume and assert my homosexuality, coincided within my personal trajectory with my shutting myself up inside what I might call a class closet.
—from Returning to Reims
After his father dies, Didier Eribon returns to his hometown of Reims and rediscovers the working-class world he had left behind thirty years earlier. For years, Eribon had thought of his father largely in terms of the latter's intolerable homophobia. Yet his father's death provokes new reflection on Eribon's part about how multiple processes of domination intersect in a given life and in a given culture. Eribon sets out to investigate his past, the history of his family, and the trajectory of his own life. His story weaves together a set of remarkable reflections on the class system in France, on the role of the educational system in class identity, on the way both class and sexual identities are formed, and on the recent history of French politics, including the shifting voting patterns of the working classes—reflected by Eribon's own family, which changed its allegiance from the Communist Party to the National Front.
Returning to Reims is a remarkable book of sociological inquiry and critical theory, of interest to anyone concerned with the direction of leftist politics in the contemporary world, and to anyone who has ever experienced how sexual identity can clash with other parts of one's identity. A huge success in France since its initial publication in 2009, Returning to Reims received enthusiastic reviews in Le Monde, Libération, L'Express, Les Inrockuptibles, and elsewhere.
An eminent Parisian intellectual, gay and politically progressive, from a conservative, working—class provincial family, Didier Eribon has written a book that will be of great interest to those concerned with questions of social class, sexuality, and intellectual community. Returning to Reims is a fascinating and courageous account of how one of France's leading writers has negotiated a complex, frequently conflicted confluence of social and psychic identities.
Leo Bersani, author of Homos and coauthor of Intimacies
This intensely personal account of Didier Eribon's family is a fascinating and compelling read...The book is beautifully written (and as beautifully translated). It is at once pleasureable and edifying to read.
Joan W. Scott, Institute for Advanced Study
This is a beautiful book about suppression, losing touch with your roots, and regaining balance.
Art in America