“Yoga” by Emmanuel Carrère: I meditate, therefore I am

Emmanuel Carrère's novel is a delusional journey into his inner abyss that each of us can recognize and pity. But it is also a joyful vibrant invitation to accept life, to observe it in its entirety, just as one observes one's thoughts while meditating. Every day sitting, motionless, in silence. 

di Lorenzo Pennacchi

While I'm writing this article there are only a few hours left before the release of the new, highly anticipated, novel by Emmanuel Carrere. Still, I just finished reading his penultimate book and this time devo write on it. I resisted for Mustache surreal, even harder for that crazy punk portrait of Limonov, but not this time. Because writing is one inner need, is the space, taking up Carrère, in which one is honest with oneself and Yoga it is an immersive meditation that needs to be extended, practiced, shared, criticized. Yoga it is literature, sublime literature, and therefore life, in all its facets. 

The book is the result of a tortuous process. Initially Emmanuel Carrère wanted to write an agile essay in support of yoga and meditation, an activity that he has been practicing as a neophyte for more than thirty years. would have been aapology written by a brilliant pen, who immediately admits that he does not represent any authority on the subject, to dispel the most common prejudices around these practices. In fact, a way to present this reality without setting oneself up as a holy man on duty, emptying that radical chic and freak vein that pumps these environments so much, at least in the popular imagination. Purpose is strengthened by experience, intensive, at a meditation seminar Vipassana in the middle of France in early 2015.

Carrère repeatedly states that he went there to write his text, in a certain sense violating the rules of the game. In fact, such a course is an opportunity to isolate oneself from the world, to get out of the chaos of samsara and try to reach the unit, the nirvana, albeit momentarily. After all, for the author, meditation, in one of her many definitions, "aims precisely to stop telling stories" [1]. Imagine writing about it. Immerse yourself in a continuous cycle of inhalations and exhalations, prolonged silences, stoic postures, calibrated by the voice beyond the space and time of SN Goenka with the established goal of making a book out of it is completely paradoxical. But it is life that feeds on paradoxes, let's not be surprised. 

In his first definition, the author limits meditation to "everything that happens within us during the time we sit, motionless, in silence" [2]. These few words aim to uproot this practice from an exotic or cloistered imaginary, a make it accessibleto update it. Personally they were enough for me to start meditating every evening cross-legged on the parquet, motionless, in silence. Ten honest daily minutes in which I focus on breathing, on the body, on posture, fighting against the vrittis, the mental fluctuations that characterize our lives and that prevent us, the masters say, from seeing life as it is. Yoga is all about being able to train thoughts, originally to bind two different oxen to the same yoke. Ten minutes that do not correspond to the usual ten minutes of work, study or leisure, but really ten minutes lived second by second in which the ego fights against its ego. Because in a summary of definitions: 

Meditation is detachment from one's identity. Meditation is discovering that we are other than what is constantly saying: Me! I! I! Meditation is discovering that we are other than our ego. Meditation is a technique for nicking the ego. 


In the minutes, or in the hours, in which one remains seated, motionless and silent vrittis they constantly attack our mind. Of course it is like this, it is part of life. Meditation therefore teaches a resist, strengthens patience, allows us to dig into ourselves and in doing so weakens us, allowing us to see the other better once we reopen our eyes. Clearly at the moment I am definitely losing this great spiritual warfare, but I thank Carrère for having succeeded in a few pages where other various attempts, with all their claims to integrity and perfection, have failed over the years. I have all my life to improve and that's enough for me. In a sense, meditating is like praying but without that substrate of beliefs necessary in the common sense of the term, as recalled by the cavernous voice of SN Goenka at the end of the first day of the seminar Vipassana

Don't work with ideas or beliefs, just work with your breath. Only with your direct experience. The last thing you are asked is to believe in something. Don't believe anything: try it. Experiment. 


I'm quite convinced that if Emmanuel Carrère had finished his ten-day retreat he would actually have written that nimble and positive book on yoga which he set out to shape from his own experience. But things went differently. On January 7, 2015, simultaneously with the release of the much talked about Submission by Michel Houellebecq, at twenty past eleven in the morning the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, near place de la Bastille, was crossed by two hooded men armed with Kalashnikovs. Twelve people were killed, five others were seriously injured.

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France realized it was in one social psychodrama son of its history, people mourned the tragedy, Carrère was torn (by his own will) from that seminar which, at least in words, is considered unforgivable. Then he went back and faced the ten days but, needless to say, with such preparation as to make the experience entirely predictable and therefore much more weakened. At any rate he could not have done otherwise, since he had been asked to speak at the funeral of Bernard Maris of his love of literature, rather than Houellebecq, who was in the eye of the storm now more than ever. The request came from Bernard's partner, Helene Fresnel: a splendid couple, of which Carrère remembers the deep love and the good time spent together. A desperate call that interrupts the search for spiritual unity and the immediate writing of the apology of yoga against easy prejudices. Irrefutable, cannot be postponed. After all: 

I have the impression that among the blood and tears shed in Paris in those days, Bernard's brain on the linoleum of the poor, small editorial office of Charlie, the destroyed life of Hélène F., to militate against the people I know, and our conclave of meditators committed to each attending their own nostrils and silently chewing bulgur with gomasio, one of the two experiences being, much more simply, truer than the other. All that is real is true, by definition, but some perceptions of reality have a greater degree of vastness than others, and are not the most optimistic. I think, for example, that there is a greater degree of truth in Dostoevsky than in the Dalai Lama. I mean, with my witty and captivating book on yoga, he was in a bit of shit.


In addition to the book, Emmanuel was about to (re) enter with all his shoes in the shit. In the first pages of Yoga outlines an important differentiation between two kinds of suffering. The first, human, is the one that comes from the dramas of life. Charlie Hebdo is pure human suffering. The second, neurotic, derives instead from oneself, from perennial dissatisfaction, from paranoia, from well-being. Carrère, one of the finest pens of our time, is a neurotic. One of those that a person with problems, those of life, would punch from morning till night for being so selfish. Do you understand? A radical neurotic, who turns out to be bipolar, who practices meditation and writes a book on yoga to defenestrate his ego. Yet, that's not enough. Le vrittis, who are "vrittis under the influence of cocaine [6], they get the better of him for a long time, leading him to confinement in a psychiatric hospital, to the regular administration of ketamine as if it were a horse, to a misunderstood euthanasia, to various electroshocks that today are called ECT.

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It is the abyss, the lowest point of that constant meditation which is life, marked by dialectic of opposites, as recalled not only by Eastern philosophies, but also by Greek scholars and numerous ranks of other Western philosophers, culminating in the liberating work of Friedrich W. Nietzsche, a deep say yes! who we are and what surrounds us. The balance between the complementary forces, between the yin and yang, it is one of the goals of yoga, which teaches you to master the paths from one pole to the other and vice versa. A goal completely out of reach for the madman, unable to order his thoughts and helpless towards the tsunami of vrittis that stands out against him. Now, Emmanuel is a lover of meditation in its various forms, but also clinically insane. He'll be cynical, and maybe nasty, but I think, as a writer, couldn't have asked for better

I remember with extreme precision that evening in September 2016 when, sitting alone as almost every evening at the Café Le Rallye, at the corner of rue de Paradis and rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière where I had just moved, I was blinded , like Paul on the road to Damascus, from the evidence that my psychiatric autobiography and my essay on yoga were the same book. [...] And I'm sure this could be a good book, a necessary book, in which the two poles will manage to coexist: the incessant aspiration for unity, for light, for empathy and the opposite, powerful call of division , of closure itself, of desperation. This push and pull is more or less the story of all men, only that in me it's taken to excess, it's pathological, but as I'm a writer I can do something about it. I have to do something with it. My sad personal story can become universal.  


Emmanuel Carrère really comes out of the neurotic malaise only when, once clinically stabilized, he relates again to human evil. During the so-called refugee crisis, in fact, he goes to Leros. Here he collaborates in a refugee center, feel the dramas of young boys forced by the great cosmic game to leave everything and everyone, placing their hopes in an increasingly unstable and disrupted (advanced) society. Here he knows the manager Frederica Mojave, from which he settles down and with whom he never goes to bed but with whom he experiences an evening of pure ecstasy by listening and dancing on repeat to the polonaise n. 6, said heroic, di Frederic Chopin.

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To understand the symbolic importance of this event, open the video above and stop at 5:30 and for a few seconds afterwards. In that change, in that smile of the splendid young girl Martha Argerich, there is the horizon of meaning, hope, the say yes! that allows people like Emmanuel and all of us to carry on, despite the Shadow that would like to envelop us. That simplicity that should make us appreciate life, the our life and do everything possible to make it better for all. And the simplicity of meditation which consists in sitting, motionless, in silence, or from another, last, perspective «to piss when you pee and shit when you shit» [8]. Doing things when they need to be done with gratitude for the possibility of being able to do them. Write an article using the first person, teach your students to explore knowledge and respect others, cheer for a victory, keep singing after a defeat, love. is inlove that the self can truly be scaled down and only a humble self is able to truly breathe: 

I will never get there, but I believe that yoga can be practiced, in any position, on a cellular and molecular level. I'm sure that by dint of bringing attention to the skin and what is under the skin, to the inhalation and exhalation, to the pumping activity of the heart, to the circulation of the blood, to the flow of thoughts, to fury to sink into the infinitely tenuous of sensations and awareness one day we arrive on the other side, in the infinitely large, in the infinitely open, in the sky that man was born to contemplate: this is yoga



[1] Emmanuel Carrère, Yoga, Adelphi, Milan 2021, p. 145.

[2] Ibid, p. 32. 

[3] Ibid, p. 280. 

[4] Ibid, p. 97.

[5] Ibid, p. 146.

[6] Ibid, p. 157.

[7] Ibid, pp. 162-163.

[8] Ibid, p. 280.

[9] Ibid, p. 234.

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