Boja Fauss

by Alessandro Truffa


Shortlisted Charta Award 2023

At 7:37 on 4 March 1947, took place in Turin the last execution in Italian judicial history against the perpetrators of the Villarbasse massacre. Transferred to Le Nuove prison, despite the request for an appeal to the Cassation, the three prisoners were in any case convicted due to the strong impact that the news story had generated on public opinion. They were executed in a shooting range by a firing squad formed by a group of local policemen. Thus ended one of the most heinous crimes of the immediate post-war period and, at the same time, a key event in the history of Italian criminal law, which remained famous as the last common crime punished with the application of the death penalty.

About a century earlier in the same place the legend says that a form of rudeness reserved by the people to the executioner was that the bakers handed him the bread upside down to exercise contempt and evil eye. Prompted by the executioner’s repeated warnings and complaints, local officials issued a city ordinance formally banning the discriminatory practice. So it was that the bakers, to circumvent the law with a creative choice, invented a new device with magical and symbolic power, a type of brick-shaped bread: the sandwich. Same both below and above, the pancarré concealed its message. In the impossibility of recognizing the cooking side, it could continue to be served upside down, thus exercising its silent power.

The pancarré, today a soft ghost to feed on, would be born at the expense of its food value, to be used as an instrument of political dissent against a figure perceived as the embodiment of a sytstem in which Justice was publicly ritualized and manifested itself as an instrument control. A heterogeneous mixture of elements is amalgamated in its dough: judicial news and popular history, literary writings and archival documents; echoes of a trauma settled in the collective memory, but hidden under a soft and reassuring surface.

«The book, Boja Fauss, by Alessandro Truffa mixes different themes and regi- sters, joining together together past and present, history and folk tales, literature and archival documents, reflection and irony. The book form constitutes the final ingredient of the project, the indigestible glue of that part of collective memory which, if not analysed, investigated, not “dissected”, risks becoming too large a lump, a bite impossible to metabolize.»

Alessandro Carrer