Roland Topor

Alerted by Terry Castle on Pinterest, the work (surreal, nightmarish, harsh, often scabrous) of Roland Topor.


Les Bestioles (ca. 1973)

From Wikipedia:

Roland Topor (January 7, 1938 – April 16, 1997) was a French illustrator, painter, writer, filmmaker and actor, known for the surreal nature of his work. He was of Polish-Jewish origin and spent the early years of his life in Savoy where his family hid him from the Nazi peril.

Roland Topor wrote the novel The Tenant (Le Locataire chimérique, 1964), which was adapted to film by Roman Polanski in 1976. The Tenant is the story of a Parisian of Polish descent, a chilling exploration of alienation and identity, asking disturbing questions about how we define ourselves. The later novel Joko’s Anniversary (1969), another fable about loss of identity, is a vicious satire on social conformity.


Roland Topor

An appreciation of Topor on the forbidden planet blog on 11/13/14, “From Our Continental Correspondent – Get to Know Roland Topor” by Wim:

When he died in 1997, Roland Topor left a legacy that spread across all forms of art, from illustration and fine art to books and satirical writing, to films, but which also was very consistent in its resolutely different look at things. For Topor, nothing was obvious, and everything had to be examined from all viewpoints. Quite often this resulted in surrealist, alienating and, sometimes, quite shocking results. [Plus lots of genitals, some of them with minds of their own, and a load of bodily fluids.]

Topor was a big name in the French counterculture, working for Hara-Kiri magazine from the start, together with other luminaries like Fred or Wolinski [of Charlie Hebdo], and founding the Panique movement with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Arrabal. But these days, he seems to have been largely forgotten beyond the French intelligentsia, and especially abroad.


Two new publications want to change that. The First, Strips Panique (Nouvelles Editions Wombat, 2014) collects the comics that Topor created for Hara Kiri, Charlie [Hebdo] and other publications. Even though they are not really strips per se, but rather more or less sequential images with subscripts, they are still very powerful, poetic and strange stories, showing a creative mind that was not bound by any preset or convention in a time when things like these were not yet packaged by the media, but were still considered very dangerous.

A second, bigger book focuses on the illustrations that Topor drew for French newspapers and magazines all across the spectrum. Topor, Dessinateur de Presse (Les Cahiers Dessinées)


showcases illustrations and cartoons from underground papers like Hara-Kiri and Bizarre, but consequently also mainstream, international publications like Elle, the New York Times and Die Zeit. Even though Topor became a celebrity in the 1980s, he never pandered to the public, and instead chose to shock and confront his readers with their existential blind spot, the things that they would rather not see. The things that really go bump in the night.


Composition 4 (1967)

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