Roland Topor

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

Roland Topor’s parents came to France in the 1930s. In 1941 Topor’s father, Abram, along with thousands of other Jewish men living in Paris, were required to register with the Vichy authorities. Topor’s father was subsequently arrested and interned in a prison camp at Pithiviers, where inmates would be held before being sent to other concentration camps, usually Auschwitz. Of the thousands who were sent to Pithiviers only 159 survived. But Topor’s father, Abram, managed to escape from Pithiviers and hide in an area south of Paris.

While his father was in hiding, Topor’s landlady would confront the children, Topor and his older sister Hélène, and try to cajole them into giving away the location of their father. The landlady did not succeed. Then in May 1941 a neighbor tipped off the Topor family that the French police along with the Gestapo were going to search the entire building. So the family fled to Vichy France. In Savoy, four-year-old Roland Topar was placed in a French family, given a false name, and took on the identity of a Catholic schoolboy.

The family survived, and in 1946 they sued the landlady to have their belongings returned, and to be allowed to resume living in their former apartment. The court ruled in their favor, they returned, and soon were once again paying rent to the landlady who had previously tried to have them apprehended.

Topor died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The night before, it is reported he couldn’t sleep, spending the night visiting Parisian cafes, enjoying Cuban cigars, drinking Bordeaux wine, and—when at the Cafe de Flore—recounting a nightmare he dreamed, that he thought might inspire his next novel:

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by Topor, Roland,
Published 2004
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