“What displeases is my freedom”

By Frederic Potet

Posted yesterday at 1:37 a.m., updated yesterday at 8:30 p.m.

  Enki Bilal, in Paris, in June 2020.

A tutelary figure in political and science fiction comics, Enki Bilal is the protean artist par excellence. Visual artist, painter and director, the native of Belgrade, aged 70, is currently exhibiting at the Musée de l’homme in Paris.

I wouldn’t have come here if…

If Tito [1892-1980] hadn’t been so cool with my father… Let me explain. During the Second World War, my father was part of the Partisans [mouvement armé de résistance yougoslave], alongside their leader, Tito. At the end of the war, he had become his regular tailor. Tito, who offered gifts in kind to his fighters, had offered him a small house, but he had refused. He didn’t want to join the Communist Party and dreamed of the West. He then left for Paris to perfect his craft. I don’t know what Tito said to him then, but yeah, it was cool to let him go…

Without his wife and their two children, who will stay in Belgrade, with the idea of ​​joining him one day…

I am 4 years old and my sister is 6. Five years later, while my father is still in Paris, it is I who will speed things up, following a gaffe. To my school mistress, I accidentally tell that we are going to France. She asks to see my mother and explains to her that her husband has the means to facilitate our departure. It is true that the couple eyed our apartment. Three weeks later, here we go. Everyone was paralyzed: we weren’t ready to go to Paris, and my father wasn’t ready to receive us.

Why wasn’t he ready?

The couple he formed with my mother was an absolute fiasco. Four years after our installation in La Garenne-Colombes (Hauts-de-Seine), he decrees that we will go and live in the United States. A medical examination at the American embassy having detected a small stain on my mother’s lung, we will not leave in the end. My father emanated an inordinate pride, a psychological rigidity. He had not adapted to the French context, any more than he had adapted to his paradoxical situation in Belgrade, as a non-practicing Muslim.

Your mother, of Czech origin, was Catholic. Did religion have any place at home?

No. This is the only point where my father and my mother agreed: they never imposed their religious vision on us. I tried to discuss all these topics with my father before his death, but our inability to communicate prevented it. We missed each other.

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