Working from the 1960s on, the French writer, artist and illustrator Roland Topor (1938–97) was an all-round maverick known for his paintings and drawings as much as for his novels (such as The Tenant
, filmed by Roman Polanski), plays and short stories, all dominated by a sense of irrational, everyday menace. He was also a filmmaker, actor (appearing as Renfield in Herzog's Nosferatu
) and the cofounder, with Arrabal and Jodorowsky, of the Panic performance art movement. The tone of Topor’s fiction and art could be interpreted as humorous, but it’s a humor pushed deep into discomfort, almost to the point of total horror. From the collision of these factors, rooted in the author’s experiences and his irrepressible personality, come works increasingly seen as unique in European art and writing of the late 20th century.
Head-to-Toe Portrait of Suzanne tells of an isolated, misanthropic narrator and his encounter with the beautiful Suzanne, an old flame from his past. It is at once a fable, a love story of enormous tenderness and a tale of increasingly unpleasant events that culminate in horror and atrocity. With its distinct blend of sympathetic cynicism and grotesquerie, Head-to-Toe Portrait of Suzanne—Topor’s first work to be translated into English in half a century—offers an ideal introduction to the work and worldview of an artist currently undergoing a major reassessment and rediscovery in his home country and beyond.