Goncourt Prize for High School Students and Interallié Prize in 2019 for human things, Karine Tuil returns for the start of the winter 2022 season with decision, a new novel published on January 6 by Gallimard, in which the novelist explores the difficult condition of the profession of counter-terrorism investigating judge, and that more widespread, of a woman tired of a married life at the end of the race.

The story : Alma Revel, almost fifty years old, is an anti-terrorism judge at the Paris prosecutor’s office. We are in 2016, a year after the Bataclan attacks. The judge must rule on the release of Kacem Abdeljalil, a young man suspected of having joined the armed forces of the Islamic State in Syria.

In addition to this difficult decision to be made in the professional context, Alma is going through a marital crisis. Mother of three children and married for twenty years to an embittered writer who has been vegetating since he received the Goncourt at the very beginning of his career, Alma has recently had an affair with a lawyer, who happens to be Kacem Abdeljalil’s defender…

In a first-person account, the heroine, coordinator of the anti-terrorist training center, takes us by the hand to enlighten us on the realities of this very tough job, which constantly puts those who exercise it in the presence of acts of unbearable barbarism. State agents who must, under pressure from each other, make decisions that involve the safety of citizens on the one hand, and the lives of the accused on the other.

“The anti-terrorist pole is one of the most exposed observation and action posts: you have to be solid, determined, a little adventurous, able to take the blows, withstand violence (internal, external, political, military, religious, social), violence everywhere, all the time – nothing really prepares us for it.”

This profession, in addition to being stressful and risky – the judge constantly receives threatening messages – colonizes her entire life, with extended hours, work that overflows into the evening, weekends, but also travel, not to mention the sleepless nights caused by the anxiety generated by his heavy responsibilities.

Karine Tuil describes with almost technical meticulousness the operation and progress of the investigation, integrating into the thread of the story elements of the file, transcripts of interrogations, extracts from telephone tapping. The novelist draws each stage of this long process of searching for the truth, with the doubts that accompany it, and the political issues that it underlies.

At the same time, we follow, and this is more expected, the intimate path of a woman whose life as a couple has gradually withered over time, who, caught up in a loving passion, would go so far as to compromise her career. Will Alma be able to make the right decisions? The two stories, that of the instruction and that of the passion, end, one expects it, by coming together in a tragic conjunction.

With this novel, Karine Tuil digs into subjects that are dear to her, such as truth, justice, the breakdown of a couple, or even the relationship to Jewishness, which she evokes here in the guise of the husband, a failed writer after a dazzling start in his youth, suddenly caught up in religion when he felt that everything around him – his career as a writer, his couple – was falling apart, even to the point of opposing his daughter’s marriage to a Muslim .

decision makes us understand what is going on in the head of the narrator and the pangs in which the difficult decisions that impose themselves on her, in her professional life, plunge her, such as in his personal life. We understand less well, on the other hand, what motivates young people to become radicalized, terrorists to take action, motives that others, such as Tobie Nathan in wandering souls, published by L’Iconoclaste in 2017, managed to illuminate.

Very documented, didactic, unrolled by a writing that maintains a distance until the end, this latest novel by Karine Tuil reads like a journalistic investigation and this is perhaps its limit: too technical, too superficial, too ” studious” perhaps, to move us.

Cover of the novel "decision", by Karine Tuil, published by Gallimard on January 6, 2022 (GALLIMARD)

“The decision”, by Karine Tuil (Gallimard, 304 pages, 20 €)

Extract :

“We spend hours with the indicted, for years, complicated hours during which we manipulate a dark, hard material. At the end of my investigation, I must determine if I have enough charges for these individuals be judged by others. It’s mental torture: am I making the right decision? And what is a good decision? Good for whom? The indicted? The society ? My conscience?” (“The Decision”, page 111)

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