Hands in pockets: Emmanuel Carrère, Yoga

“We need a story to live, I don’t have one anymore”

Sf Emmanuel Carrère’s literary imperative does not vary — literature is this ” place where you don’t lie not —, the writer, in Yoga, released yesterday by Folio editions, places all of what he writes under the sign of negation. He begins by erasing everything: he had imagined “a smiling and subtle little book on yoga”. For this he had gone to do a Vipassana course, a way of continuing what he knew how to do, on-board reporting: observing what is happening from the inside, participating in what is being played out. “I thought it would be both a useful and enjoyable task to write, in a familiar conversational tone, an unpretentious little book, a smiling and subtle little book to clarify all this, from my own experience “. A “commando” course on a quiet highway and already used so many times, in short… Everything was there, the title (Expiry), the general idea, quite a few pages already written and even the back cover of the book. Everything existed in a book which, in fact, will never appear because everything will work to deny it.

These reasons, Carrère states them from the first pages of the book: some are at the articulation of the collective and the intimate – the massacre of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo —, still others on the crest of the public and staff — the death of Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens —, the last totally intimate but made public — a terrible depression, the diagnosis of a bipolar disorder type 2, the seduction of suicide, internment. The book imagined, almost written, already presented, will not exist and it is not, in Yogaa simple archive, a pretext or the complacent document of a personal catastrophe in the making but very present as negative. Yoga is written “in negative”, in the literary sense of the term, either from an impossible recaptured, from a failure as a condition sine qua non of a revival. Yoga is also written as one reveals a “negative” in photography, as one makes something appear from a print.

” What is the story ? »

It is not a question here of denying the reality of what was lived, in his flesh, by Emmanuel Carrère but of going beyond this strictly biographical reading, therefore without any literary interest, to read what the writer made of this experience: he creates not only with what he had planned and started to write but with the way in which reality came to impact this project and how he himself overcame this crisis to compose a book which is altogether profoundly different from precedents and totally in their wake – by which one recognizes, undoubtedly, a work.

Carrère summons and comments himself as well The kingdom that The Opponent, Other lives than mine thatA Russian novel Where Limonov. But he doesn’t do it out of complacency, impotence or lack of imagination, inability to get out of his own perimeter. Here it is no longer Carrère doing breaking into realityto use the title of a volume published by POL in 2018 (whose final photographic notebook incidentally illustrates a number of pages of Yoga) but the real breaking into Carrère. Something happens — plural, prismatic, both collective and intimate — which disconcerts and brings the writer into “this magma that we call identity”. A “magma” with its latency phases, its initially imperceptible upwellings and its explosion: the geological crust cracks under the pressure and causes lava to extrude. Same process here, in its literary side, all the more vivid because Carrère’s identity is his own added to all those other lives he invented or recomposed, those real lives he included in his books. Extrusion makes it necessary for him to rethink the ” venue what is literature, between reality and fiction, like its own poetics of the novel. The crisis is indeed that of a “who am I? “.

“I understand the word yoga in a very broad sense”

And this is where yoga comes in, as meditation and mediation of a poetic art that is expressed and theorized while articulating a practice of storytelling. Nothing is unified in this book (an “end to end”), everything functions by double disjunctives – darkness and irony, self and others, nirvana and depression, etc. — to compose a novel-world or a novel-sum from oneself, individual and writer who concentrates and condenses an intimate and romantic universe, in other words a relationship (deep, intense, acute) of reality and fiction, of experience lived and its literary diction. It is in this that Yoga is the high, whole and conscious claim of a writer’s ambition – a “ground where reigns without division this inextricable mixture of obsession, megalomania and noble desire to do well which composes a writer’s ego”. This “magma” and this “inextricable mixture” are rendered by a fascinating flux, a labile montage of memories, reflections, anecdotes, scenes without any apparent seam despite the intertitles, what Carrère calls a “drift” in the psychiatric as narrative sense of the term.

Career derivativehe approaches another shore, a place beyond what he has already lived and written, an assumption of his narrative power, an acme which must pass through chasms and abysses and for which it is necessary to invent a word as it cannot be described (it is “unmemorable”) or deploy a book that narrates the stages and resorts of a reconstruction of oneself, as a man, as a writer. It is in this that Yoga ends up being similar to Polish heroic by Chopin interpreted by Martha Argerich, one of the keys to the story and the poetic art of “its incredible rhythmic power, its sumptuous crescendos of octaves, the grandiose returns of the main theme each time”.

“I keep not dying”

You could say so many Yoga, the way in which this book articulates meditation and “psychiatric autobiography”, pairs the works of Michel Leiris and Virginia Woolf. We should talk about his work on a form of twinship of which a figurine is the paragon and the symbol. Emphasize the influence of Montaigne, quoted at length, in a common practice of “napping” by layers of successive writings that make up a set of absolute coherence that manages to maintain the vagueness and the undecidable of its movement, its ” vritty “. We could try to render the incredible of his meditation on death, love and friendship, the way in which one can live again by and in writing. Carrère Yoga FolioOne could try to say the sublime of a love scene in Geneva, the power of a new beginning which goes through “typing exercises” to respond, beyond death, to the one who, as a result, remains the absolute publisher of this book written in an immense after. One could also analyze the way in which Carrère’s books are written from the deployment of potential beginnings doomed to failure, from multiplied and delayed incipits to closed parentheses to better deploy their undecidable infinity.

But since this book, which undeniably marks a capital stage in the work of Emmanuel Carrère and which will count in a general history of forms, is still for a few weeks in the avalanche of a new literary season among others, we will content ourselves with writing that nothing of what has been stated Yoga — neither by the critics nor by its author — really says so and that nothing can replace the experience of reading it, to the infinity that it offers us. “Meditation is everything that happens within oneself during the time one is seated, motionless, silent”: this time is that of writing for Carrère, that of reading for us. We will never know if the planned little book, Expiry, “my own version of these personal development books that work so well in bookstores”, would have “made a hit”. On the other hand, we are convinced that we are with Yoga faced with a very large book responding to the fourteenth definition of meditation: “In the infinite space which opens up within oneself, to dig tunnels, to build dams, to open circulation routes, to push something to to be born”.

Emmanuel Carrere, Yoga, Folio editions, September 2022, 448 p., 8 € 90

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Hands in pockets: Emmanuel Carrère, Yoga

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