the writer who ate himself

Rob Doyle in The Guardian:

In a sense, writing a book is easy. You just keep putting one interesting sentence after another, then thread them all together along a more or less fine narrative line. Only, it isn’t easy – in fact, it’s famously difficult, a daunting and arduous labour that can frequently leave you in a state of utter nervous exhaustion, reaching for the bottle or the pills. Since his creative breakthrough with The Adversary, published in 2000, the French writer Emmanuel Carrère has done something doubly amazing: he’s pioneered a unique and captivating new way of telling a true story, and he’s made it look easy. Or at least, he makes it go down easy for the reader. His fiendishly personal “nonfiction novels”, which encompass subjects such as dissident Russian literature or the story of early Christianity, unfold in a condition of perpetual climax, locked to a point of fascination from first page to last.

As his new book Yoga begins, Carrère is “in a good way”, enjoying what has been a 10-year run of glory, marital happiness and all-round good fortune, which he finds remarkable considering how miserable his inner life had previously been. Carrère, as anyone who’s read his books will know, is a great pornographer of his own torments, a champion sufferer who writes from a pitch of exhibitionistic anguish even though his life – rich, Parisian, glamorous – looks conspicuously appealing. “As far as neurotic misery goes, I’m second to none”, he tells us, characteristically. Basking in the sunny uplands of his late fifties, he decides to write “an upbeat, subtle little book on yoga” but lets us know on the very first page that neither life nor the book would play out like that.

More here.