Predating christian philosophy Masterbation chats
Carrère was born in 1957 into a privileged and intellectual family.
(His mother, Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, is a distinguished historian and the permanent secretary of the Académie Française.) Though Carrère’s wife jokingly suspects him of being “Catholic around the edges,” he comes from a milieu that was likely to be interested in theology only, in Borges’s words, “as a branch of fantastic literature.”Yet by the late nineteen-eighties, after launching a fairly successful literary career—a book about Werner Herzog; a few well-received novels—he had become depressed and unproductive: “I could no longer write, I didn’t know how to love, I knew I wasn’t particularly likable.
His inquiry into the lives and testimonies of Paul and Luke, and their journeys through the far-flung extremities of the Roman Empire, is scrupulously thorough, and relies on an enormous amount of reading, gently summoned.
But because Carrère is not a Biblical scholar, and doesn’t want to be one, he allows his imagination to linger and play.
But Carrère is like some brilliantly improper teacher, the one you were lucky enough to enjoy before he got fired, a whirling eccentric who feels free to compare Paul to Philip K.
Dick, ecclesiastical authorities to the Bolsheviks, and prayer to yoga, and who throws in references to the martial arts, his enjoyment of pornography, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Gogol and Dostoyevsky, and Mel Gibson’s dodgy Christ movie.
(There is good French precedent for this kind of intervention: he often cites the nineteenth-century scholar Ernest Renan, whose biographical narrative, “Vie de Jésus,” dared to fill in Jesus’ “lost years,” between his youth and the start of his ministry.
One has an opinion, the other knowledge.”Carrère has become celebrated for his propulsive, original, free-ranging narratives, which frequently mix memoir, biography, and fiction in rather blithely measured proportions.
For one thing, it has become exceedingly rare to encounter crises of faith as experienced by a secular intellectual, and Carrère’s oscillation between orthodox fervor and wistful agnosticism holds undeniable fascination.
Instead of surreptitiously fictionalizing his story of the rise of early Christianity, he proceeds like a freelance—and slightly offbeat—scholar.
“Can one believe that such things are still believed? “And yet they are still believed,” Carrère replies.
Fortunately, Emmanuel Carrère lacks Kierkegaard’s anguished Northern masochism.