Karine Tuil: “I write to understand what escapes me”

Karine Tuil: “I write to understand what escapes me”

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Karine Tuil: “I write to understand what escapes me”

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Karine Tuil: “I write to understand what escapes me”

In The Decision, the novelist examines the internal dilemmas of a woman anti-terrorism judge. A dive into the horrors of the human soul and a reflection on redemption.

Just like Human things , Interallié and Goncourt prize for high school students in 1900 recently adapted to the cinema by Yvan Attal, the new novel by Karine Tuil anchors herself in the world of justice: The Decision paints the portrait of an anti-terrorist investigating judge, Alma Revel, who faces a personal and professional crisis. A few months earlier, this mother of three children cheated on her husband with the lawyer of a man suspected of having joined the Islamic State in Syria – a man whom she must question and decide, or not, to incarcerate… Fruit of an enormous and fascinating investigative work, this book of burning topicality, which its author describes as a “reflection on human complexity, the
‘otherness, the idea that you never know who you have in front of you’, we offers the opportunity to question in our turn a writer who has never been afraid to embrace, with as much courage as talent, the major societal questions of our time.

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On video, “Human things”, the trailer

Madame Figaro. – How are you you come to want to portray an anti-terrorist investigating judge?

Karine Tuil.
– I started to take an interest in the attacks terrorists in 2007, the year in which a planned attack by a French jihadist had been foiled. I had attended the trial, written The Invention of Our Lives, part of which relates on this subject, and discovered that little was known about these men and women in the shadows who direct the investigations and question the accused. This fascinated me, I met some and I wanted to tell the story of a woman, coordinator of the service, working with the eleven judges of the anti-terrorist instruction unit. To recount his intimate and professional conflicts and the difficulty of finding himself in a position where each decision-making can involve the security of the nation.

Would you say that you wanted to paint a powerful woman, but from the inside? Hence the use of the first person.

I usually use the indirect form, but here it was impossible to tell this story without entering into the deep intimacy of this judge, to address the doubts she faces daily without using the “I” : “Will this decision that I am making not lead to a attack ? Is a private decision, such as that of a divorce, will not weaken me to the point that I will no longer be able to do my job, where we are under pressure twenty four seven ?” I have tried to say from the inside what these judges cannot express publicly. Just as I tried to say how we approach this job, how we keep faith in humanity, how we manage to create a daily connection with those we interview. Judges are subject to professional secrecy and rarely mention their working conditions. The anti-terrorist gallery is a very closed and protected place, and that’s also what interested me: breaking through this mystery there, which echoes the mystery of the human soul.

Were you also keen to show the different faces of this woman – the professional but also the wife, the lover and the mother?
I wanted to describe a woman approaching the fifties who is in the midst of a crisis. To her professional difficulties, which could be described as ethical and political, are added personal difficulties because she is also a woman, and the mother of three children, and she wants to succeed in her wife. The mixed couple that she forms with her husband, a Jewish writer on the decline, explodes, and we learn that she has an affair with a lawyer who defends a jihadist whom she must question. The conflict of interest is obvious, and we see her torn in her private life as in her professional life. There is no literature without conflict, and I wanted to transcribe the dilemmas of a woman in a position of power, with this question which runs through the whole novel: can I trust anyone, including a jihadist whom I am interrogating and who tells me that he has repented? The Decision is a reflection on the safe zone in one’s life. How far can we get out of it without being destabilized?

The Decision paints the portrait of an anti-terrorist investigating judge, Alma Revel, who faces a personal and professional crisis.

Press Service

We find a recurring theme in your work: violence…

The narrator comes to be contaminated by the social violence . We feel the tension in his couple, the tension in his professional daily life, the violence that innervates each of the interrogations. She works with young people from 17-17 years who have hatred of France, and she tries to understand the process that led to this hatred . She makes attempts sociological approach and note a common point: the lack of hope… Judges give food for thought on the functioning of our societies. What shortcomings, what mistakes, have led these young people to such a hatred of their country? This interested me all the more since I am the daughter of immigrants and I was brought up to worship the France. My parents come from Tunisia, and they were happy to live in France, to have become French. It was a real question during the writing of this book. What has changed so that today young people of the new generation no longer want to be French?

To listen to: the podcast of writing

Is that why you have integrated a second narrative thread where we follow the interrogation of a jihadist?

I wanted us to discover the interiority of this woman, but I also wanted to work on the question of evil, of the passage to act and the possibility of redemption during a lifetime. I wanted us to discover in an unprecedented way – via an interrogation led by the judge – the intimate journey of a young man returning from Syria, who was enlisted by Islamist ideologues. The book is a reflection on the death drive present in each of us, but also on the truth that everyone believes they hold. The jihadists think they are right. Judges must work for the manifestation of the truth – it is their function. But what is the truth? And what truth are we talking about? The intimate truth, the truth 2080608politics, judicial truth? Are there one or more? I write to try to understand what in the society eludes me . Literature makes intelligible what is not. And what is more unintelligible than the violence, the evil, the barbarism of an attack?

The Decision, by Karine Tuil, Éditions Gallimard, 304p., 46 €.