After an absence of 30 years, Didier Eribon, professor of sociology at the University of Amiens, returned to the seedy outskirts of Reims, where he had grown up in the 1950s and 1960s. His ‘stupid and violent’ father, a factory worker who drank, went fishing, shouted at the television and beat his wife, had finally died in a home for Alzheimer’s patients. Didier had never visited him (‘What would have been the point?’), nor did he attend the funeral. But he did go to interview his long-neglected mother. As he half-listened to her ‘endless stream’ of bitter reminiscence he ‘began a process of reconciliation with myself, with an entire part of myself that I had refused, rejected, denied’.
As though by some ridiculous ‘miracle’, Professor Eribon had been born into a sub-population of bigots, brutes and slaves of the capitalist system, known collectively as the working class.