If Emmanuel Carrère were a comedian (and his latest book, Yoga, has considerable doses of humor, despite the sadness of the story), his most loyal readers would already know all the jokes and tricks, but they would return to him again and again, as to an unmistakable place, a house in which furniture and decor were recognizable, an old friend. Yoga, published on August 27 in France by the publishing house POL, contains all the elements that have made Carrère (Paris, 1957) one of the three or four French writers of this time possibly called to endure.
It’s all here, in the book of the rentrée in France. Novel? Test? Autobiography? Here we meet again the character of always, the Parisian bourgeois intellectual with a comfortable life but with a “loaded, despotic ego” and a runaway psychic life, “a guy who has everything, absolutely everything to be happy and manages to loot this happiness and that of yours. ” Again, honesty without filters, that way of ruthlessly explaining itself (or also, the narcissism of misfortune, a mannerism of sincerity that nevertheless always rings true). “The writers who write what goes through their heads are the ones I prefer,” he says. Another feature that is a hallmark of the house: the style, clear and enveloping, which leads to convulsively turning the page: Proust to the rhythm of Grisham .
The argument of Yoga -first volume with original material from The kingdom, published in France 2014- is summarized in the first sentence, which says something like this: “Since the story of these four years in which I tried to write a smiling and subtle book on yoga has to begin somewhere, I faced such things little smiling and subtle like jihadist terrorism and the refugee crisis, I sank into a melancholic depression that led me to stay four months in the hospital of Santa Ana, and finally I lost my editor who, for the first time in thirty-something five years, he will not read a book that I have written … “.
Yoga is the story of a new fall into hell by Carrère (the previous one was related in A russian novel, 2007), after a decade of emotional and family calm whose origin he explained in Of other people’s lives, from 2009 (all his work has been published in Spanish Anagrama). At the same time, it is the story of the writing of the book at hand.
The initial project of an essay on yoga derails and ends up merging with what he calls his “psychiatric autobiography”, when his mental health deteriorates and he enters the hospital with a “characterized depressive episode, with melancholic elements and suicidal ideas in the frame of a bipolar disturbance of type 2 ”. Carrère is subjected to a treatment of “what was previously called electroshocks and today it is called ECT, electroconvulsive therapy ”.
The book contains these two books. And some more. Yoga his stay in a meditation center in deep France begins with a funny chronicle, a mixture of a boarding school initiatory novel and an introduction to yoga. It includes a report on the immigrant crisis on the Greek island of Leros, and an evocation of the blow of terrorism in their social circle (this part and the hospital keep a family air with The flap by Philippe Lançon, Anagrama, 2019). We find an essay about the search, if not for happiness, then for a certain tranquility and even moments of light in the existential whirlwind (the fleeting smile of the pianist Martha Argerich in a video from the sixties while she performs the Heroic polonaise Chopin). And the book is an invitation to enter the kitchen of the writer. While we read Yoga he tells us how he writes Yoga, or how he tries: an effort to assemble disparate sauces without following a certain plan, with digressions, stumbles and doubts, and without knowing what will become of the notes he was taking in those years (in November 2017, Carrère confessed to Àlex Vicente : “I’m going through a difficult time. I don’t have a project”; in the summer of 2019, during a conversation with Javier Cercas for EL PAÍS, he declared: “I want to get back to writing a book”).
The novelty -the news, in journalistic terms- is underlined almost half: “I cannot say [de este libro] what I have proudly said of many of the others: ‘Everything is true.’ Because in Yoga there is fiction. How much is not clear. Towards the end, he reveals that one of the characters is “in part a novel character”, but a few pages later the narrator meets him by chance at an airport, and we do not know if that happened or did not happen, if the woman That’s not real.
Two years ago, The flap de Lançon was not eligible for Goncourt, because it was not fiction, it was not novel. Perhaps the fictitious doses of this confession that is Yoga they serve Carrère this year to aspire to the great prize of French literature, which he has not yet obtained. He doesn’t need it to confirm his status in contemporary literature, but someone like him, who claims to be “a narcissistic, unstable man, overwhelmed by the obsession to be a great writer,” will certainly appreciate it.
Author: Emmanuele Carrère
Editorial: POL France. 2020