Its disappeared places, its teachers, its Trans… An investigation into the (real) Rennes youth of Riad Sattouf – Rennes
Today, for him, Rennes is “the city of passing time”. Riad Sattouf, author of the successful saga The Arab of the Future, has agreed to recount his youth in Rennes to the Mensuel de Rennes.
A slice of life that we find sketched from volume IV of the Arab of the future. Compressed for plot purposes, it only partially reflects this pivotal period in the cartoonist’s life. Sattouf’s years in Rennes are not easy to pin down. What relationship does the author have with this city, the crucible of his spleen and his emotions? Under the pen of Julien Joly, the investigation and the confidences of the person concerned lift a good part of the veil.
Rennes was a gray city from where you could smell the sea in the distance.
“Rennes, city of outdoor discovery”
This “Arab of the future” must have been him, the little Riad, whom his father dreamed of seeing embody the elite of an idealized Middle East. Throughout history, the Sattouf family is torn between Syria, Libya and Brittany, according to the moods of the patriarch.
Riad’s mother refuses to follow her husband to Saudi Arabia where he has landed a professorship. She ended up settling with her three sons in Rennes, near the La Poterie district. Our hero is 12 years old. He enters 6th grade at Ormeaux college in the South Station district. Its starting point can be summed up in one box: “Rennes was a gray city from where you could smell the sea in the distance”.
A city where the 90s are bubbling. Between record stores and independent booksellers, programs on Canal B and concerts at the Trans, the young Riad tells his story of his own Breton capital. “Rennes was the city of adolescence, that is to say of the discovery of the outside world, of learning a certain autonomy”, he explains today without hiding a certain nostalgia. A city where the teenager will gradually take on the costume of the future designer he will soon become.
When I learned that he was piercing, I was happy for him
“Sattouf? What you want to do later “
Le Mensuel de Rennes has found witnesses who rubbed shoulders with this kid. A teenager stuck, ugly, not nice, imbued with his talent, he depicts himself. At the time, he dreamed of becoming a famous cartoonist (Moebius) and going out with a girl. Not necessarily in that order.
Already, his pencil appeases the bosses, who ask him for portraits of basketball players. It is both its refuge and its interface with reality. In the background, the voice of his Breton grandmother who has been telling him, since the age of 2, that he will be a great artist. This opinion is shared by Andrée Chapalain. One day, his plastic arts teacher stalks him on the threshold of his class: “Sattouf, what do you want to do later? He doesn’t dare say that his dream is comics. So he stammers: “Airplane pilot…” Frown. ” Are you crazy ? You must become a designer, finally! »
This simple sentence validates the aspirations of this shy boy and marks him for a long time. “He is someone who needed this encouragement, who could not believe in him from the start, explains today the one who retired to her native Finistère to enjoy a peaceful retirement there. “When I learned that he was breaking through, I was happy for him. Drawing like music are not excessively valued disciplines. While these are areas where sometimes excel young people whose academic background is quite average elsewhere.
Riad Sattouf tells us about his youth in Rennes, Julien Joly, Le Mensuel de Rennes, March 2023.
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