Eric-Emmanuel wrote Milarepa for Bruno Abraham-Kremer, who later directed it as a play. Milarepa (1040–1123) was a Tibetan Buddhist, and a magician, yogi and poet who fascinates Schmitt, a non-Buddhist partly because he's too passionate, as he explains in the Afterword interview with Bruno Metzger in the above edition.
Milarepa is a short narrative, much like a short story rather than a novel, and Schmitt won the Prix Goncourt for the short story in 2010 with Concerto à la mémoire d'un ange. It forms the first part of Schmitt's 'Cycle de l'invisible', which also includes Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, Oscar et la dame rose, L'Enfant de Noé, Le Sumo qui ne pouvait pas grossir, and Les dix enfants que madame Ming n'a jamais eus.
The story begins with Simon, who is troubled by a recurring dream that he has to kill someone. A strange woman he initially believes is insane comes up to him in a café and informs him that he is a reincarnation of the hateful Svastika, the uncle of the sage Milarepa. But she is telling the truth and Simon has a long way to go before the cycle of rebirths can be broken.
As Schmitt says in the interview, Milarepa would have been a yawn if he'd started out as a goodie-goodie and became a sage, as opposed to the revengeful mass murderer he originally was, and who grew into a sage through years of duress: it takes no time to be a villain, but to become a genuine sage requires extremely hard work and a considerable gift for the task.
My other Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt blog posts:
Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: La Tectonique des sentiments
Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: La Femme au miroir