Right to the end, overwhelmed as he was by so much bad luck, Ligonnès still didn’t give up: He went through with, and in a radical manner managed something few people accomplish in their lifetimes; he pushed on the “reset” button.
This book, my eigth read for the Prix du Roman de Rochefort 2021, revisits a true life event here in France, the unsolved murder by shotgun of a woman and her four children in their home in Nantes and the dissapearance of their husband and father, Xaviet Dupont de Ligonnès. Bruno de Strabenrath, childhood friend of Ligonnès, has written this book shedding light on his background. De Strabenrath believes, as illustrated in the opening quote, that Ligonnès is still alive and hopes by this book to get him to come forward and to give himself up.
De Strabenrath tells of their schooldays in the 1970’s in the “Royal City”, Versailles, of the rich and not so rich catholic monarchists living their, of their meetings with young girls of their own class and how they were aware of this situation:
I’ll have my Signet ring in a fortnight. I only intended to wear it on rare occasions, and only amongst people of my class and in society events. Rally evenings or debutant balls, in order to display my pedigree on my finger.
The most interesting part of this book is this desription of this time and place growing up together. De Strabenrath also lets us in on Ligonnès’ family background, of his mother and her catholic sect waiting for the overthrow of the Pope:
My mother receives messages from on high, Xavier told me half smiling. Since 1964 she has her whims, her MLC (Messages of Love and Compassion) and gathers around herself, both in Versailles and on the island of Bréhat close friends that share her convictions of theology, esoterism and initiation…..a prayer group if you like.
From the murder on, about halfway through the book, the interest aroused by this insider view of Versailles dies away as the two friends become estranged following De Strabenrath’s car accident leaving him wheelchair bound and Ligonnès’ descent into debt as he first dilapidates his wife’s considerable inheritence and borrows continually from his friends until the end. To my way of thinking nothing new here.
First Published in french as “L’Ami impossible” in 2020, by Gallimard *** my translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
Finalement, accablé par tant de malchances, Ligonnès ne s’avoue pas vaincu: il réalise jusqu’au bout et de façon radicale ce que peu d’hommes accomplissent au cours d’une vie; il appuie sur le bouton “reset”
Je disposerais de ma chevalière dans 15 jours. Je comptais la porter lors des rares occasions, dans le cadre exclusif de mon milieu et de ses mondanités. Les soirées de rallyes ou de bal des débutantes , afin d’afficher au doigt mon pedigree.
Ma mère reçoit des messages de là-haut, me disait Xavier dans un demi-sourire. Depuis 1964, elle a ses lubies, ses MAM (Messages d’Amour et de Miséricorde) et réunit autour d’elle à Versailles et sur l’île de Bréhat des proches qui partagent ses convictions théologiques, ésotériques, initiatiques… Un groupe de prière en somme.