Louis Roubaud, the madness of the investigation

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Hysteria crisis observed in a patient of Dr. Charcot at the hospital of Salpêtrière in Paris in 1875. PHOTO ADOC-PHOTOS

The inset boasts: "Coming soon, a great report from Louis Roubaud." In a black and white drawing on which is represented a man with an oblong and sickly face behind bars. We are in 1933 in the pages of Detective, the weekly newspaper of cartoons which cartonnees in kiosque. Photos shocks, bloody crimes, but also beautiful feathers. This is a time when great reporters are heroes, Joseph Kessel, Albert London and others we have forgotten. Louis Roubaud, whose publishing house L'Eveilleur republishes this famous survey conducted among fools, does not evoke anything today.

An online search is almost white cabbage. His page Wikipedia at most information on his dates of birth (August 21, 1884 in Marseille) and death (October 14, 1941 in Lyon), and lists five titles published, Demons and Elements not being part of it. In the early 2000s, a partial homonym, Jean-Louis Roubaud, begins to look at his genealogy and falls on the Louis, which has nothing to do with his family. Intrigued, he still spent three years trying to trace the line of life of this friend of Albert London that he designated as his "master". The collection seems very thin: a complete bibliography, his collaborations with the press, his union without offspring, a box of papers and letters to the national archives, and a pile of his works. Little but enough to give back a tree of descent and a wake to the reporter disappeared at 57 years.

Originally from a bourgeois family of Marseille lawyers and architects, Louis Roubaud "ridden" in Paris settled in place de Clichy. From the early 20s until 1940, he wrote in several newspapers. Editor-in-chief of the literary magazine the flame, then employee of the Newspaper, he leads the French explorer after the war, creates the big report Daily, before being recruited to Little Parisian. He will also collaborate the Intransigeant, Paris Soir, the Annals and of course Detective. Emmanuel Bove gives him an attentive portrait in 1936: "The eyes of Louis Roubaud are brilliant. His face is finished to the smallest detail. The contours of the wings of the nose stop in time. Plates, carefully separated by a straight man's hair, his hair, unlike the Nordic, have no ears. "

Does it begin with fiction to turn towards journalism? In any case, it starts with literature Newspaper, where Octave Mirbeau makes him publish his first tale. His first book, the Rose and the Gray, published in 1912, also draws on the collection of nostalgic tales. Some stories will also appear in the funny newspaper, clearly showing that his pen is swinging.

Flair. In 1933, when he delivers his report in psychiatric hospitals, Louis Roubaud is 48 years old. She is a celebrity in her field. He investigated the appalling conditions of children in correctional homes - he was a resident in Mettray, Indre-et-Loire - to the point of provoking a debate in the Chamber of Deputies (The Children of Cain). With the Thief and the Sphinx (1926), he brought from Guyana an overwhelming testimony about the galleys. 36 Quai des Goldsmiths (1927) details to the general public the secret work of the police. But he also explored haute couture (In the land of models, 1928), the Music Hall or even the Stock Exchange (1929). Viet Nam (1931) will reveal the deep malaise of the Indochina colony ...

The journalist seems passionate, tireless fighter, well of curiosity. "The man, the worker paid by a big newspaper, has been touched more deeply than another, says Pierre Mac Orlan in 1928. Because it is not possible to travel as a tourist to the day and time that the great reporters have chosen, in order to enter a country, a city or an institution. "

His name is logically in the summary of the first delivery of Detective, 1st November 1928, with an article on the prison, because his signature has gained a strong reputation in the eyes of the public. Detective, Bilipo is currently devoting an exhibition (1), is the pioneer of news weeklies. "But quickly, Detective is best known for his reporting on crime, for his dives in the lowlands, his investigations of international trafficking and for the treatment of a whole series of high-profile subjects. Every Thursday, the small factory of crime feeds the kiosks of its bloody numbers for readers come to get their dose of enigma and horror ", describe Amélie Chabrier and Marie-Eve Thérenty, curators of the exhibition. Gaston Gallimard has launched Detective by commercial flair to offset the edition of demanding writers (Gide, Claudel, St. John Perse).

After Georges Kessel, it is Marius Larique who takes the reins of Detective with the dream of a major investigative and reporting journal by recruiting experienced journalists: Louis Roubaud, Paul Bringuier du Newspaper, Marcel Montarron and Henri Danjou from Daily. The majority of major reporters then practice immersion journalism, like Paul Bringuier who turns for a month into a social dancer for a report on the wildlife bar. These "big surveys" are teasées in the pages several weeks in advance and make the prestige of the weekly. The report then implies a long time, meaning to be away from writing for a long time.

In October 1932, Louis Roubaud explained to Gaston Gallimard that he had been working for three months exclusively on the investigation of psychiatry. It is also an alibi to ask for an extension in advance on fees. To make their reports profitable, the journalists then try to change them in volume. It's not won, especially when they aim for the prestigious "Blanche" collection. Thus, Louis Roubaud, in the tradition of journalists writers, trying to sell to Gaston Gallimard his immersion among the madmen after its publication in the magazine: "Are" Demons and Dements ", the investigation published in Detective, interested in the Gallimard bookstore? My keen desire would be to publish the book at home [...]. I believe that "Demons and Dements" could have an interesting career, but I would like the first thousand, at least, to be published in the "Blanche" collection, which alone could allow me to stir the press. " (1) Accepted request: the collection appears in 1933 in the "White" for a print run of 5,500 copies, of which only 986 will be sold ...

Louis Roubaud's specialty, the "major social surveys" become a recurring expression in Detective in the mid-30s. They depict the declassed of which the magazine is fond, namely prostitutes, prisoners, martyred children. In February 1936, Roubaud published a long series on "Prostitution, troubling enigma", which later became a book. This will be his last report for Detective because Gallimard stops his monthly payment. The magazine, which turns into an anti-Semitic and homophobic dish, ends in 1940.

the Little Parisian, Louis Roubaud made the front page for months as a war correspondent in 1939-1940, and published in particular the staggering testimony of a survivor of the camps on July 24, 1939 ("" I come from hell ", life in a camp Israelites in Germany "). Roubaud symbolizes a reforming and left vein in a nauseating pre-war atmosphere. "In Gallimard's archives, I found a brochure against racism, which Roubaud had proposed to publish," adds Marie-Eve Therenty, professor at the University Paul-Valery Montpellier-III. After the armistice, the reporter settles in Lyon, collaborates with Little Marseillais. After returning from a last report in Spain, he finds death.

"Iridescent bubble". Demons and Elements appears as the exact illustration of Louis Roubaud's talent, an impression of fiction, sometimes obsolete, given by an investigation woven through dialogues. Why does he decide to make an incursion among madmen and madness, "His first ascent into the stratosphere of the mind" ? A certain Charles, shut up in the asylum of Vaucluse for five years, offers him in a letter to introduce him to some of his comrades. The human prism always seems to be the touchstone of the reporter's approach.

The progression comes in a series of paintings in which he passes, from place to place, from characters to characters, as if pulled by the sleeve, with the medical device of the Dr Courteous. The investigator is staged, as he has always done, without judgment or overhang. It's a universe he does not know, so he fills it. First, fools tell themselves: Charles, considered "Persecuted-persecutor" and crippled with auditory hallucinations. Another complains of being insulted night and day by thirty Freemasons who bring him the worst horrors. Another passes laughter to tears, happiness to joy. "He has nothing left, not even a destiny ... writes Louis Roubaud. His soul is only an iridescent bubble, blown by a child in a ray of light, or punctured by the fingertips. " After the mad, he wants to understand the madness, not without humor. Why not "Empty the ocean with a nut shell ..." smiled Mr. Courtois.

That's Rouletabille in White House, in the footsteps of the Chief Medical Officer Mshe Pascal, who tried his first experience in 1928 of "Pharmacodynamic psychoanalysis" using various drugs capable of giving a moment of lucidity to the insane. From the psychiatry of the 30s (67 asylums in France, 18 religious houses and 14 hospices, more than 80,000 people in total), Louis Roubaud draws an immersive portrait, with its lack and excess, and the concern to bring them to public knowledge. In the most emphatic way, letting people tell each other.

(1) "Detective, crime factory? "Library of Police Literatures, 48-50, rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, 75005, until 1st April. Catalog edited by Joseph K. in collaboration with Paris Bibliothèques, 192 pp., 24,5O €.

Frédérique Roussel

Source: © Louis Roubaud, the madness of the investigation

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