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To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Joachim Martin: the carpenter who wrote his secret diary on the floor.

4 min read

The carpenter Joachim Martin wanted to ensure no one read his thoughts while he was still alive. So he decided to tells some disturbing facts of his life and his personal reflections in a very original secret diary: the floorboards of his castle. We are in France, in the castle of Picomtal, in the Hautes-Alpes.

In an old-fashioned yellow novel, a normal guy suddenly become an investigator when finds old stories of murders and adulterers, long gone. But it’s not a novel, this is really happened: in the early 2000s the new owners of the castle of Picomtal, had the floors of some rooms changed, thus discovering the secret diary of the man, lasted probably several months, approximately between 1880 and 1881. Joachim Martins, who at the time was 38 years old, was oppressed by this painful secrets and he kept and could not (or wanted) to trust anyone, and in fact decided to entrust them to the floor. Secrets about sex, religion and crime, and the event that more obsess the carpenter is an infanticide, occurred 12 years earlier:
in 1868 I was passing at midnight in front of the entrance of a stable, I heard moans, It was the mistress of one of my old friends and she was giving birth.
Joachim says that the woman had given birth to six children over the years, but four of them had been buried in the stable, not by her mother, but by her lover.

The criminal was a childhood friend of Joachim, Benjamin, but he did not scruple to misuse his wife: “This (criminal) is now trying to screw up my marriage. All I have to do is say one word and point my finger at the stables and they’d all be in prison. But I won’t. He’s my old childhood friend. And his mother is my father’s mistress”.

The family and friendship ties thus overcome the horror of a terrible and repeated crime, but they do not placate the anguish of Joachim. He was living in a time of great change, with the Third Republic bringing in reforms that limited the powers of the church.
The behavior of the local priest, provokes a feeling of anger difficult to contain: according to Joachim (and many other of his villagers), the Abbé Lagier was a sexual maniac, who took advantage of his role: “First I find it very wrong the way he sticks his nose into our family business, asking about how one makes love to one’s wife. He wants to know how many times a month,” he writes, and adds more about sex positions and concluding: “The pig should be hanged.”
In the same “wood page” he describes the village priest as “a bit of a lad, there he is bowing to the women while the poor cuckold husbands have to keep quiet“.

Despite the diary, very little is known about Joachim Martin: he was born in 1845 and died in 1897; when he was young he played the violin at the village festivals, and was the father of four children. To conclude his secret diary, he speaks directly to the reader of the future:
Mortal Man, when you read this, I will not be anymore. My story is short, sincere and true, because no one but you will see my writing“.

In my opinion, better if it were a yellow novel. Why? Many mysteries would have been revealed, instead we will never know what happened to his criminal childhood friend, his wife induced into temptation and the priest without morals! 😉

His diary, has fascinated an historian of the University of the Sorbonne, Jacques-Olivier Boudon, who wrote the book “Le Plancher de Joachim“. According to the scholar, thanks to Joachim’s testimony, “we have a vision of the reality of relationships in a village, which no conventional archival text can describe so clearly“.

Sources: photos of the castle // Flickr
Images of the table: Thesun.co.uk

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