Roland Topor  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Roland Topor (January 7, 1938 – April 16, 1997) was a French illustrator, painter, writer and filmmaker, known for the surreal, fantastic and grotesque nature of his work.


Personal life

His parents were of Polish Jewish origin and Topor spent the early years of his life in Savoy where his family hid him from the Nazi peril. He has a son, Nicolas Topor.

Literary career

Roland Topor is best known for his novel The Tenant ("Le Locataire Chimérique", 1964), which was adapted to film by Roman Polanski in 1976. The later novel Joko's Anniversary (1969), a fable about loss of identity, is a vicious satire on social conformity.

He also wrote Leonardo Was Right (1978), Three Artists from France (1994), Je T'aime: A Pillow Talk (1998) and two works of non fiction: Panic (1965) and Journal in Time (1989).


Roland Topor wrote two songs for Megumi Satsu, "Je m'aime" and "Monte dans mon Ambulance"


With René Laloux, Topor made "The Dead Times" ("Les Temps morts", 1964), "The Snails" ("Les Escargots", 1965) and their most famous work, the feature length La Planète Sauvage (1973).

Topor also worked as an actor, his most famous part being Renfield in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979). In the same year, he also performed the surrealistic paralyzed boss in the movie Ratataplan by Maurizio Nichetti.


Artistic career

Roland Topor was discovered by Jacques Sternberg and in 1960 he publishes his debut Les Masochistes, a collection of drawings. He exhibits in the university museum Maison des Beaux-Arts, Paris from January 20 to January 30 1961.

He published several books of drawings, including Dessins panique (1965) Quatre roses pour Lucienne (1967) and Toporland (1975). Selections from Quatre roses pour Lucienne were reprinted in the English language collection Stories and Drawings (1967). His carefully detailed, realistic style, with elaborate crosshatching, emphasises the fantastic and macabre subject matter of the images.

In 1962 he created the Panic Movement (mouvement panique), together with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal.

From 1961 to 1965 he contributed to the French satirical Hara Kiri magazine.

He created the drawings for the bizarre introduction of Arrabal's film Viva la muerte (1971).

In 1983, he created with Henri Xhonneux the popular French TV series Téléchat, a parody of news broadcasts featuring a puppet cat and a puppet ostrich.


1962 – Creates the Panic Movement (mouvement panique), together with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal.

1961 to 1965 – Contributes to French satirical magazine Hara-Kiri.

1965 – Creates, with partner René Laloux, the animated short film "Les Escargots." The movie won Special Jury Prize at the Cracow Film Festival.

1966 – Illustrates Daniel Spoerri's An Anecdoted Topography of Chance (Re-Anecdoted Version) published by the Something Else Press.

1971 – Creates the drawings for the bizarre introduction of Fernando Arrabal's film Viva la muerte.

1973 – Topor designs and René Laloux directs La Planète sauvage, a 72-minute long animated film, based on a novel by Stefan Wul.

1974 – Topor has a cameo in Dušan Makavejev's Sweet Movie.

1976 – Roman Polanski directs a movie version of Topor's book The Tenant.

1979 – Plays the role of Renfield in Werner Herzog's movie Nosferatu the Vampyre.

1983 – Creates with Henri Xhonneux the popular French TV series Téléchat, a parody of news broadcasts featuring puppets of a cat and an ostrich.

1989 – With Henri Xhonneux co-writes the screenplay for the film Marquis, loosely based on the life and writings of Marquis de Sade. The cast consisted of actors in period costumes with animal masks, with a separate puppet for de Sade's anthropomorphised "bodily appendage."

2011 – The Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne mounted a survey exhibition of 22 promotional posters designed by Roland Topor.


Recueils de nouvelles
  • Vinci avait raison
  • L'Hiver sous la Table
  • Batailles, avec Jean-Michel Ribes
  • L'Ambigu
  • Palace, avec Jean-Michel Ribes (sketches-télé)
  • Merci Bernard, avec Jean-Michel Ribes (sketches)
  • Le Sacré Livre de Prouto (récit)
  • Journal in time (chroniques)
  • Courts termes, avec Éric Devolver (entretiens)
  • L'Équation du bonheur, avec Henri Rubinstein ( entretiens)
  • À rebrousse-poil, avec Henri Xhonneux (échanges)
  • La Cuisine cannibale (recettes)
  • Rumsteack morceaux (poèmes et chansons)


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Roland Topor" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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