Alfred Raquez Death Certificate

One enigma about Alfred Raquez can finally be laid to rest. This is a copy of his death certificate from Marseille, translation below (thank you Dr. Bruthiaux).






Pursuant to a decision of the Civil Court of Marseille, dated six February one thousand nine hundred seven, transcribed today, the certificate opposite is modified in the sense that it applies to the late Joseph-Nicolas-Ferdinand Gervais, aged forty-four, explorer, born in Dunkerque, son of Henri-Eugène-Désiré Gervais and Elise-Joseph Duchot, husband of Laure-Rachelle-Marie Boitelle,

Recorded by us, Officer of Civil Records, on 18 February 1907.


[Signatory] 305



In the year one thousand nine hundred seven and on 10 January at eleven forty

died at Marseille this morning at two o’clock, at his domicile, Plage du Prado 10, aged forty two years, explorer, born at …………………..

upon a declaration made by Ernest Outrey, aged forty three years[,] Inspector of the Indochina Civil Service, Chevalier of the Legion of Honor,

domiciled and residing at Rue Saint Jacques 9 — and Gaspard Galy – aged forty nine years, Journalist —

domiciled and residing at Rue de Rome 51 —— Recorded by us, according to the law,

Recorded by Jules Dechavanne —————

Deputy Mayor of Marseille, Appointed to the Functions of Officer of Civil Records, and having read the above to those making the declaration signed with them

As suspected in my previous post, Raquez’s real name is Joseph Gervais, an avocate from Lille, who perpetrated a confidence scam in France and went on the run in 1898.

I have done much research on this man and that will be published in the next issue of PHILAO (No. 103), co-authored with the brilliant and talented Dominique Drillien. However, as that will be published in French, I will post highlights in English on this blog after it appears in PHILAO.

The real mystery of Raquez is: how did a reprobate lawyer named Gervais transform himself into “Alfred Raquez”?

A final note: I find it touching that of all the titles Raquez would claim in his brief existence…doctor of law, journalist, editor, photographer, bon vivant…it is “explorer” that is listed on his death certificate. I believe he would have liked that.

And it is as an explorer…of exotic physical spaces, of psychological limits, of the law, of media, of identity, of life!…that he is considered in my work on him.

When he left Hanoi in 1904 to begin his Mission Raquez, a 15-month journey through Laos to collect material for the 1906 Colonial Exposition in Marseille, he wrote in Revue Indochinoise, “Encore un brisement dans la vie!” He probably means “Another rupture in life!” But a more literal reading is Still breaking in life!

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