Philippe de Chèrisey, Oulipo and Georges Perec

Paul Smith

11 August 2015

All sorts of wild speculations are made on the internet about Philippe de Chèrisey, like for example he was responsible for faking the Coumesourde “stone” (Philemon, Johan Netchacovitch). It has been explained here that Philippe de Chèrisey was building and developing on an existing hoax first perpetrated by Noël Corbu.

Because Philippe de Chèrisey and Denise Carvenne (1918-1980) starred in five films together does not make it an automatic fact that Philippe de Chèrisey got his information about Noël Corbu and Rennes-le-Château from her (she was an active member of Robert Charroux's Club des Chercheurs and visited Rennes-le-Château during the early 1960s). Philippe de Chèrisey's first references to Rennes-le-Château appear in the Priory of Sion documents of the mid-1960s.

Philippe de Chèrisey's memberships with surrealist groups like Oulipo in relation to the creation of his parchments and Priory of Sion activities are also much speculated upon – the only thing that needs to be said here is that there is absolutely no evidence that Philippe de Chèrisey was actively involved with the Oulipo – despite his membership of it.

Rémi Schulz suggested a connection between Philippe de Chèrisey's Large Parchment and Georges Perec (1936-1982), member of Oulipo who wrote the famous 1978 novel La Vie mode d'emploi (“Life: A User's Manual”) – a tapestry of interwoven stories 99 chapters long, moving like a Knight's Tour of a Chessboard around the room plan of a non-existent building, describing the rooms and stairwell and telling the stories of the inhabitants – but, alas, not resembling any of the Rennes-le-Château elements at all, and without making any reference to Mort Epée (a Knight's Tour as a means of generating a novel was a long-standing idea of the Oulipo group).

There is no evidence that Philippe de Chèrisey and Georges Perec ever met each other, or corresponded with each other by mail, or spoke to each other over the telephone – yet there remains the overriding temptation to daydream that “Georges Perec enjoyed a glass of wine with Philippe de Chèrisey” and that they may have “discussed the use of the Knight's Tour together at some stage”.

In the final analysis, Philippe de Chèrisey's Large Parchment is ultimately meaningless – its original intention being part of the hoax claim that it was discovered by Bérenger Saunière in his church in 1891.

The entire subject matters of the Priory of Sion and Rennes-le-Château are of course based on figments of the imagination rather than upon real history, making them prime targets for mythmakers and those who are unable to master critical historical research.

Philippe de Chérisey's story below is part of the Priory of Sion myth
It should not be taken seriously

Philippe de Chèrisey
L’Enigme de Rennes

On page 3 of his book, JEAN DELAUDE states:

‘The alleged ‘manuscripts’ that GERARD de SEDE presents us with are forgeries. The originals were fabricated by PHILIPPE de CHERISEY in 1961, and formally lodged by him in the following year with a solicitor, Maître BOCCON-GIBOT. GERARD de SEDE therefore only had photocopies of the originals, as reproduced in his book ‘L’OR DE RENNES’ (‘The Gold of Rennes’). This same PHILIPPE de CHERISEY decided to add a little further spice to this farce by publishing, in June 1971, a book on Rennes (to which he also registered the copyright), containing a decipherment of the original document. The book is called ‘CIRCUIT.’

‘To be precise, I lodged:

  • A. the original, with my decipherment of the parchment texts, published by de SEDE, with Maître BOCCON-GIBOT in 1962. [note: this correspondence is really dated 8 October 1967]
  • B. a novel, supplying the general public with the key to the decipherment and entitled ‘CIRCUIT’, with the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Had it not been for a trick which was played on me at the registry office in 1923, I would in fact be called PHILIPPE, MARQUIS de CHERISEY, and I am indeed the author of this little piece of mystification that GERARD de SEDE fell for.’

7 AUGUST 1977

Received a letter from a correspondent, Monsieur MARTY of Carcassonne, the owner since 1956 of the tombstone said to be that of the Marquise de BLANCHEFORT of Rennes. Monsieur MARTY, who has also received a copy of ‘CERCLE D’ULYSSE’, has certain questions to ask. This gentleman asks me on what JEAN DELAUDE bases his statements about certain published ‘parchments’. Well, to get our bearings and to refresh our memories, here is my response:

‘In February 1892 Abbé Bérenger SAUNIÈRE, the impoverished curé of Rennes-le-Château, discovered three rolls of wood in his church, which was then undergoing repair. These rolls contained ‘parchments’…. The Abbé referred the matter to his bishop, Monseigneur FELIX BILLARD, and then went to Paris, hung around people associated with Saint-Sulpice, and returned to Rennes where he led the life of a multimillionaire.

‘When I visited Rennes-les-Bains in 1961 and learned that, after the Abbé’s death, the town hall of Rennes-le-Château had burned down (along with its archives), I took advantage of the opportunity to invent a story that the Mayor had made a copy of the parchments discovered by the Abbé. At the suggestion of FRANCIS BLANCHE I then set about composing an enciphered copy based on certain passages from the Gospels, and then myself deciphering what I had myself just enciphered. Finally, by a circuitous route, I was able to deliver the fruits of my labours to GERARD de SEDE. What happened next far exceeded my wildest dreams! Today visitors to RENNES-LE-CHATEAU are encouraged to admire, at the home of Monsieur BUTHION, the restaurateur who keeps the Hôtel de la Tour, two superb enlargements of photocopies of MY ENCIPHERED TEXTS!

‘But the really wonderful thing about this story is that GERARD de SEDE, before publishing the manuscripts, contacted the cryptology branch of the French Army, who showed him how the text had been enciphered, but sent him away empty-handed as regards the deciphered text.

‘Despite being a complete duffer at cryptography, I have nonetheless proved that absolutely anyone can foil the computers of the French secret service and, therefore, those of our political masters as well.

‘I finished by making my decipherment known to the public by publishing it in my novel ‘CIRCUIT’ in 1971. Six years later, GERARD de SEDE published ‘SIGNÉ ROSE-CROIX’ (2). This is simply a warmed-up version of ‘L’OR DE RENNES’, and includes my decipherment, which he attributes to a certain Monsieur PUMAZ, which is the pseudonym of none other than the AUTHOR HIMSELF! No doubt the day will come when this wretched GERARD de SEDE will publish my novel under his own name. This is not, however, that serious a matter. What distinguishes us from one another is this: I AM IN PURSUIT OF THE GRAIL (even if it was to be found in a latrine) while he is still chasing royalties. GERARD de SEDE is plundering me, as he plunders everybody, but in doing so he is carrying out researches that I myself simply do not have the time to undertake’.

14 AUGUST 1977

Another letter from this same dear Monsieur MARTY, asking:

‘What do you think of FRANCIS BLANCHE?’

Quite a lot, indeed. I met him for the first time in a nightclub near the Place Saint Georges in Paris. He tried to frighten me and he certainly succeeded.

He played a major part in my life as an actor in Brussels in 1961, during the shooting of ‘VIVE LE DUC’, a Belgian film regarding which the less said the better. After that we met at CORNELIS, a specialist in marionettes, and then again in a nightclub at the Gare du Nord, now demolished. He made me tell him my stories about hidden treasure, including the one about the rolls of wood from which the Abbé BÉRENGER SAUNIÈRE took the parchments that have since disappeared into the coffers of an English bank.

- ‘Make me some like that. I’d be interested in buying some’.
- ‘Make what?’
- ‘Some parchments. Just knock out some little bits of nonsense like this and then send them to ARNAUD de CHASSIPOULET. It’ll be in my radio serial’.

‘SIGNE FURAX’ was the name of this radio serial, which will no doubt still be vaguely remembered by some listeners. But does anyone believe that PIERRE ARNAUD de CHASSIPOULET (a person of exactly that name) really existed? Well, I actually met this gentleman, who had a tape-recorder shop near Rue de la Boetie, but without actually giving him anything. The ‘pseudo-parchments’ had taken up such a large part of my time that they took on a life of their own outside the framework of the radio serial ‘SIGNÉ FURAX’.

FRANCIS BLANCHE died in 1974. Actually an extremely cultured man, he spent his whole life acting the fool. His innate sense of the ridiculous pushed him to the most incredible extremes. I myself was his ‘negative image’ as it were: a pseudo-cultured fool, who appreciated only the passive aspects of the joke. And it was a joke that was to last for 17 years…