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Wikipedia states that Antoine Alexandre Henri Poinsinet was born in Fontainblue the 17th of November of 1735 and drowned in the Guadalquivir, in Córdoba, the 7th of June of 1769. The French playwright and librettist of the great Philidor –to whom Wikipedia dedicates more space trying to make sense of his odd character than to his work– would be the lead character in this curious story that happened very close to Hotel Viento10.

Poisinet lived in Paris in times of the Enlightment. He belonged to the French bourgeoisie, just like almost any other Encyclopédiste(such as d'Alembert, Diderot, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and an old Voltaire). To such a lot belonged our dear librettist.

Poisinet was graced with a special kindness and was also naïve to the extreme, for such qualities he would be teased and laughed at. So many and so popular were the jokes that as of today they still appear in folk songs, refrains and idioms all over France. In his memoirs, Jean Monnet writes about the pranks that they would pull on poor and naïve Poinsinet, and no less than 23 chapters they took from the second volume.

The jokes were very elaborated and ridiculously insane, and our librettist would always bite the bait. One time they made him believe that he was needed by Catalina, the Tsarina, to teach the prince, and thus he should learn Russian. They planned him lectures and during six months he learned what would ultimately be a Breton dialect. In another occasion, after a drinking spree, he was convinced of having stabbed a Captain of musketeer 20 times and was sent to the Bastille where they kept him in a state of panic until Louis XV pardoned him the death penalty.

The deceits were so powerful and effective that the Encyclopédistes decided to create a new word to sum them all up: “Mystifier”. The term in Spanish would be “Mistificación”.

The inclusion of this term would initiate a long a harsh debate between the supporters of the new term and those who would not accept it, both fellow Encyclopédistes. Voltaire refused categorically and would never accept the new term. In the end, Diderot's view triumphed and today remains an academical term very popular among thinkers, mass media and analysts.

The Spanish dictionary says:
Mistifyer: 1. To trick, to fool. 2. To fake, to deceive, to distort.

 Well! It seems that the last mystification known to Poinsinet took place in the banks of the river Guadalquivir, around the Martos Mill. Poinsinet had come to Spain with a theater company on a tour to promote Italian and French opera, particularly the opéra bouffe. It is said that on a hot June night, after a large dinner, our naïve hero was convinced that he could walk on the waters of the Guadalquivir. As bold as they come, and a bit drunk too, Poinsinet jumped in the river and since he didn't know how to swim he drowned. His life ended only to give birth to the legend. From that day onward he was commonly known as “Don Antonio Poinsinetto”.

There is a lot to be said on how Don Antonio died. Some say he died from indigestion, however, having read the 23 chapters written by Monnet, I dare to say he drowned. What do you think?


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