Karine Tuil: “Can we mourn a love?”


In Kaddish pour un amour, a woman asks the man who has left to come back. Its fervor and fragility permeate the language, making it enchanting. Novelist Karine Tuil, Interallié Prize and Goncourt Prize for high school students for Human Things (Gallimard, 2019), is part of the Hebrew poetic tradition here. It says a man, a land, a conflict. Everything evokes the search for communion.

What is the meaning of the title, Kaddish for a love ?
Kaddish is a prayer of mourning that is recited at funerals, but, contrary to what one might think, it never evokes death, it glorifies life. So I imagined a kaddish for a love, a kind of mourning prayer, written and addressed by a woman to the man from whom she is separated. In fifty poems, he revisits his love in the hope of reviving it. A breakup, a heartbreak, who hasn’t lived through it in their life? Can we cry a love? These poems can be read as a prayer for the return of the loved one.

How did you get into writing? Kaddish for a love ?
I had the title for more than twenty years, I had even written two or three poems, but I only composed this collection in 2021. It was born from a questioning: I wondered why there was no prayer at the end of a love, which is, without a doubt, one of the greatest existential pains, while in Judaism there are so many others for anecdotal facts. I wrote these poems on a kind of impulse, it was a rather mysterious internal process, I never created anything that way. And then it is also a somewhat encrypted text, which requires different levels of interpretation; I would like everyone to be able to do their reading according to their personal history.

Success makes you lose all your familiar landmarks

You’ve come off two big hits, human things (Gallimard, 2019) and decision(Gallimard, 2022). Can success be dangerous for a writer?
Failure is suffering and success destabilizing, dangerous. Overnight, it moves you into social chess, you find yourself pushed to the front while playing the back, living on the sidelines. Suddenly you become too visible, take up too much space. Success makes you lose all your familiar landmarks, it changes the perception that others have of you, it freezes you, it can be a trap. You think you now have a result obligation. You are afraid of losing what you have learned: then you expose yourself to repetition. But there is no creation without risk. Publishing poetry today is a way to evade this mandate, to leave my comfort zone, to put myself in danger, to take another path, less safe, less accessible, to return to my original material – the word – without any interest. apart from literature. But I remain deeply attached to the novelistic form. I am currently working on writing my next novel.

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You were not afraid of the simplicity of the subject: does a woman love a man?
But love is the most complex subject! Everything is tortuous, angry, vindictive: the feelings, the balance of power, the desire, the antagonisms. We fall in love without a reading grid or instructions. I don’t know anything more destabilizing or dizzying than the feeling of dependence that the loved one creates in spite of himself. And then, love is life and the possibility of death.

Kaddish for a lovedoesn’t it speak, above all, of the love of a land, Israel?
Talk about alliance and attachment. With a man, a god, a people, a language. In Judaism, Israel is the name of a land but also that of a people. My Kaddish can be read as a declaration of love to a people who remained faithful to a certain law on a small mountain in the middle of the desert and survived, despite the trials and all the attempts made to destroy it. There is something beautiful and noble about this survival. It is the Israel of biblical times that I am referring to, the one that carried within itself the seeds of a promise, a fantasized Israel. I wanted to be part of a three thousand year old Hebrew tradition, to reconnect with the thought of Edmond Fleg or Edmond Jabès. I was raised in denial of my Jewishness – in my family, it was not mentioned – but, like all repressed things, one day, they finally come out.

Poetry is one of the last spaces where sensitivity can be displayed

Can we find in your collection a political meaning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Neither together nor apart.
Writing is always a political act because it crystallizes a commitment, a revolt, a refusal. We stand up when we write, we become a standing being. That said, unlike the novel, where everything is thought out, codified, there is something in poetic writing that escapes intellectuality, that is more unconscious. It is a collection that I built like a Jewish text with its different levels of interpretation. In Judaism, there are said to be four levels of focus. Therefore, they can be read in their literal, allusive, interpretive and secret sense. At first reading, there is no political sense, but we can see an allusion to the difficulty two peoples have in recognizing each other and living peacefully together.

Do you write differently depending on where you are?
Yes. I wrote most of these poems in a kibbutz in the Negev, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of a landscape of mountains. I felt a kind of mystical breath there, the crystallization of this expression that says that God addressed Abraham: “Lekh Lekha”, which I quote in my collection but also in my novel. decision, and which means “to go for you”, that is to say “to go towards you, your interiority, your intimate world”. I needed to relive this experience of sobriety, humility, silence and solitude, which are the true catalysts of writing.

Are you a poetry reader?
Yes, I always read it. I like Paul Celan, Joseph Brodsky, Marina Tsvetaïeva, Borges, Éluard, Char, Mahmoud Darwich and Yehuda Amichai, two authors who have written about their relationship with their land. For me, poetry puts into words the unspeakable: the Shoah, death, loss, the fragility of loving feelings; it is a form of consolation. It is one of the last spaces where sensitivity can be displayed. Also, I see a real push for poetry. No doubt because it allows us to return to the very essence of our human condition.

Writing is always a political act because it crystallizes a commitment, a revolt, a refusal

Who do you write for?
I decided very early on that writing would be my only way of being in the world, but if I want to be completely honest, I would say, like Roland Barthes: “I often write to be loved, although he adds: and at the same time I know that this never happens, that he is never loved for his writing. »

“Tell me a story / that ends well,” Brodsky told Hikmet. Tell a story with a happy ending?
I do not know. I don’t have the end of the story, love is a moving feeling, perpetually evolving. Abraham Ibn Ezra, the Andalusian poet I cite in my collection, said that the Hebrew word ketz, meaning “end,” also expresses a beginning. Love is an eternal renewal.

Kaddish for a loveKarine Tuil, Gallimard, 128 pages, 14 euros.

Source : Le JDD

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