Having evaded wretchedness, the gay young man making up his shining life in the city is one of civilization’s wonders, and Édouard Louis is a new, inspiring real-life example of such transfiguration.

  • @mplungjan ... any definition that usefully starts at #63 (!!!) should probably be integrated into an answer here, rather than e.g. left as a close reason or even just a comment. (And tbh I somewhat doubt the applicability of that definition to this usage in modern English.) – Nathan Tuggy Nov 21 '17 at 7:55
  • @mplungjan I looked through #63--which has a ton of entries by the way--but still can't find an entry that seems to explain the sentence. The closest ones are #63(a) (b) (c), respectively: (of parts) to constitute; compose; form. to put together; construct; compile. to concoct; invent. These are meanings I am fairly familiar with. But I am not sure people say, for example, "put together his shining life". – Eddie Kal Nov 21 '17 at 8:18
  • @NathanTuggy - at the time I did not have time to answer. Please see my answer and comment if needed – mplungjan Nov 21 '17 at 8:33

The construct is not common, but when reading the article and taking the list of explanations of make (63.) at dictionary.com I believe the author of the article is using "making up" in the sense of

  • construct
  • reconcile

Making something of his life after a long period of strife...

The article author, who is also gay, may also have made a pun on "make up" that the young man ultimately improved and polished his life.

63. make up,

  • to put together; construct; compile.
    • -
  • Also, make up for. to compensate for; make good.
    • -
  • to complete.
  • -
  • to put in order; arrange:
  • -
  • to conclude; decide.
  • to settle amicably, as differences.
  • to become reconciled, as after a quarrel.

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