Patricia Delahaie revisits the Ranucci affair in “A Pentecost Monday” – rts.ch

Patricia Delahaie revisits the Ranucci affair in “A Pentecost Monday” – rts.ch
Patricia Delahaie revisits the Ranucci affair in “A Pentecost Monday” – rts.ch

With “A Pentecost Monday”, the French author Patricia Delahaie is inspired by a sordid news item which shook France in 1974 to deliver a fiction which exonerates one of the last French guillotines.

Always titillated by the famous Ranucci affair, named after the antepenultimate person sentenced to death in France, Patricia Delahaie took up her pen to shed new light on the potential victim of a miscarriage of justice. This face of an angel who confessed to the terrible crime of an eight-year-old child in Marseille, before retracting, was taken to the gallows on July 28, 1976 after an investigation in which testimonies and crucial elements could exonerate him were minimized during a speedy trial.

When the Ranucci affair broke, I was about the same age as this handsome, handcuffed young man who was making the headlines. No doubt out of fear, I did not dwell on the crime of which he was accused. I stared at that angelic face and couldn’t believe his guilt.

Excerpt from “A Pentecost Monday” by Patricia Delahaie

Christian Ranucci has nourished an impressive literature. The most famous of the writings, brought to the screen by Michel Drach in 1979, is undoubtedly “Le pull-over rouge” by Gilles Perrault (1978), which sparked a lively controversy because it called into question the court decision . On the other hand, other authors take up incriminating evidence to brush aside any idea of ​​a judicial error.

Despite everything that has been said, written or filmed, Patricia Delahaie believes that the central question of who this man really was was never asked. Masked behind a fiction largely inspired by news items, she recounts her affair with Ranucci, who became Peyrat in the novel, and above all takes advantage of this decorum to examine a relationship of unconditional love between a mother, Louise, and her only son, Loïc, on the dock. A mother in denial, incapable of questioning the innocence of her beloved child.

The story of an ideal culprit

This Pentecost Monday 1974, Livia, eight years old, daughter of the Pozzis, a couple of uneventful proletarian Italians, was kidnapped at the foot of her Marseille building under the watchful eye of her younger brother Nino. Loïc Peyrat, twenty years old, shy, solitary, was in the parking lot of the building at the wheel of his car at the time of the incident. When Livia’s body is later found lifeless several kilometers from the Phocaean city, Loïc is arrested by the police. After confessions extracted during his custody, he becomes the ideal culprit.

Patricia Delahaie judiciously begins her first-person story with a slam that is immediately gripping. Loïc evokes his attraction to children, his fight against an inner ogre which dictates the worst to him. Even if he has always subdued this imaginary monster, at least so as not to offend his mother with whom he lives in Nice, perhaps he let his guard down on this Pentecost Monday. He himself knows nothing about it! The personality of this passive pedophile will prove so complex that even his lawyers will argue among themselves, unable to decide.

Mother-son relationship

Loïc’s thoughts tell the story of this kid who grew up far from any paternal figure, without friends, raised by a protective mother forced to flee the Affreux, her companion who became violent because he was jealous of the love she had for her offspring. . Patricia Delahaie, without ever judging, examines with the precision of a goldsmith the psyche of this possessive mother, who never sought to rebuild her life and preferred to keep her child to herself.

While the novelist unfolds a parody of investigation and trial, she builds up suspense like hell, mischievously instilling permanent doubt. It becomes impossible to answer with certainty the question: Loïc, guilty or innocent?

For the Patricia Delahaie case, the verdict is clear: the author is found guilty of having written a gripping novel, a pretext for intelligent reflection on the death penalty that some would like to reapply.

Philippe Congiusti/ms

Patricia Delahaie, “A Pentecost Monday”, ed. Belfond, March 2024.

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