Report on a Mental Crisis: “Yoga” by Emmanuel Carrère | – culture – book

From: 29/03/2022 18:08

The latest novel by Emmanuel Carrère created scandal in France: “Yoga” is the report on the author’s psychological crisis and the attempt to write about something he is not allowed to write about.

by Lisa Kreissler

In 2015, Emmanuel Carrère drove to a Vipassana seminar on silence. For ten days he will sit on his meditation pillow next to strangers seeking meaning and observing his thoughts. Carrère has been practicing yoga, tai chi and meditation for over 20 years. He is in a happy and stable phase of his life. The quiet workshop should not only serve for self-insight, but also as a basis for a small booklet on yoga. But things are different. He received the news that his friend Bernard had been killed in the attack on the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris. A taxi driver drives him to the train station.

When I told him that it was somehow strange for me to have been sitting on a pillow for several days without knowing that something like the French version of 9/11 was happening around us, he thought for a while, then he answered with common sense for which I am still grateful to him: “But if you had known it, what would it have changed?”

In fact, the turning point in Carrère’s inner life is not the act of violence, but an event that he must not write about. In the preface to the German edition, an interview with the translator Claudia Hamm, one can read that Carrère’s ex-wife had forbidden him to write about her. In “Yoga”, Carrère had to fool around the hole in their separation.

The separation triggers a mental breakdown in the author, not entirely surprising since he is familiar with depressive episodes. But this impact is stronger. Carrère ends up in a psychiatric ward and is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As therapy, he receives electric shocks under general anesthesia. His little yoga book turns into a trauma book, a jerk in the poles, where Carrère’s only remedy, language, sometimes fails.

And if I can not find the words, it is because today I am too distant to remember, describe and name the horror I was captured by then, and most, I think, because there are no words for it.

“Yoga” fails because of Carrère’s shame

In search of a new direction in his life, the famous author ends up with unaccompanied refugees on the Greek island of Leros. The geographical intermediate realm stands in contrast to Carrère’s psychological intermediate realm. And most recently here, as the author selfishly approaches the traumatic journey of the refugees, it becomes painful to read “Yoga”.

What if I head there? If I lead to Van, to Kars, to Kandahar, to Quetta? If I looked at all these places? If I followed Atiq’s journey? Even if I had to undertake it in infinitely less adventurous and dangerous circumstances than Atiq, it could still result in a return like Odysseus to Ithaca.

In “Yoga,” Carrère shows the apparent opposite as Yin and Yan. The sad person and the person who loves life go together as well as try to calm the mind while whipping it up through writing. This is not a new thought. But what ultimately fails the book is Carrère’s shame. He is ashamed of his loud ego that makes him reveal so much about himself. This is also a nice contrast, but when reading, it generates unpleasant pity. And above all, “Yoga” has become a sad book about the sad life of a very lovable person – but not exciting literature.


by Emmanuel Carrere

Page number:
328 pages
More info:
Translated from the French by Claudia Hamm
Matthes & Seitz
Order number:
€ 25.00

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NDR Culture | New books | 04/01/2022 | 12:40

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