“Freedom of expression at all costs” – Emmanuel Carrère
Emmanuel Carrère, novelist, filmmaker and court reporter, has just received the 2021 Princess of Asturias Prize for Literature. On the occasion of the award ceremony in Oviedo, Spain, he gave euronews an exclusive interview to discuss the trial of the November 2015 attacks and his future plans.
To watch the full interview with Carrère, click on the media player above.
In your last book “Yoga”, you mention the attack on Charlie Hebdo, which in a way interrupts your story. You may have also participated, or at least followed the tributes paid to Samuel Paty, the professor assassinated for showing caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a course on free speech. How can this almost sacred concept of free speech work with religious freedom, which is another very important right? Can we criticize a religion? Is it possible to blaspheme without insulting others?
“Ah! That’s a big question. Wait … Of course, the right to blaspheme is an integral part of our republican and pre-republican tradition. Voltaire mentions it for example. I tend to regard it as inalienable despite everything. The risk of offending people is part of it. One could say, of course, that one has to respect the freedom of expression while taking into account the feelings of others, but nevertheless, what I prefer between both are freedom of thought and expression So of course my answer is yes and no, but in the end, I am more on the side of freedom of expression at all costs. “
You are now following the trial of the November 2015 attacks for a French weekly as a columnist. Is this the subject of your next book? If so, do you already know what it will look like? Would you dare to mix fiction or even use autofiction, as in your previous books, with the harsh reality of the Bataclan attacks which has in some ways become like a national scar? Could you make this story your own?
“I’m not at all sure that this work will eventually become a book, but it is possible, because it is already somewhere in the back of my mind. I have no idea what this might look like because we’re just at the very beginning, it’s a bit premature to talk about it now … Also, adding fiction or docu-fiction wouldn’t be … Actually, it’s something I’ve never done! When I wrote The Adversary, for example, there was no fiction at all! ”
What did you take away from this first month of testing, what general impression do you have?
“What is about to end is a period, a very particular sequence, of testimonies from the civil parties, the survivors, the families of the victims. It is extremely moving and intense. follow the trial. When we go home sometimes we have a kind of, I don’t know how to describe it, we burst into tears. We are seeing something really terrible. It’s terrible, but that’s not all. What I mean is that we also experienced moments of exceptional and admirable humanity. From the end of next week, and the week after, we will start to see the side of the accused. The defendants will be questioned, so we will go to a completely different phase of the trial. A trial like this is very surprising because it feels like he’s trying to unfold every part of what happened in a few hours of that night of November 13 and from every angle. extremely emotionally taxing but also constantly exciting. “
What do you expect, if any, from this trial?
“It’s funny because the question you just asked is what they are actually asking the civil parties who testify. At the end, everyone answers the question:” what do you expect from the trial? ”The answers, I would say are mine too, is that justice must be done, that is to say that the penalties must be proportionate to the acts committed. not the people who actually committed the murders. It does not exonerate at all, but it is not the guys who killed because these guys are all dead. It also means that justice must be done according to the standards of the It is as if the honor of this trial was to make sure that it goes well, that the defendants are defended, that they are well defended … Everyone is asking, including people most injured. There is also a desire to understand things a little better, to avoid further attacks. half believe that it’s possible. Some people say, and basically this is perhaps what I remember the most, is that they want to constitute a kind of collective narrative of this event. But maybe that’s kind of a professional twist on my part. “
Yes, that’s the writer’s point of view …
“Yes, but it’s not only my point of view, it’s also that of a lot of people who testify. They say that for them it is one of the important aspects …”
To tell the story …
“Yes, because so far everyone has their own story to tell and hearing all the other stories is very important and very precious. I mean, it’s not just my profession that makes this dimension so important.”
Last question, Lao-tse would have said “The goal is not the goal, the goal is the way”. You know this quote.
“I know that and I totally agree with it.”
Where are you on your way?
“Well, let’s say I’m still walking and banging and limping, that’s kind of our lot. This question brings us back to the beginning of this conversation, to the urge to make things better and in doing so, to improve the little ones around us. It is an ambition that is both modest and immense. “