In 2003, Sylvie Gouttebaron already produced a show “A voix nue” with Robert Bober, then 72 years old. Today, at 92, the man who was a tailor, potter, filmmaker and writer speaks to Caroline Broué, and it’s so beautiful to hear him again. To the question: “Have you changed? “, he responds in his soft voice: “I don’t think so. The world has unfortunately changed and, seeing what the world is becoming, we are worried. »

Born on November 17, 1931 in Berlin, Robert Bober arrived in Paris almost two years later when his parents fled Germany after Hitler was named chancellor. It will be Belleville, then Butte-aux-Cailles, where his father, a shoemaker, like his father before him, opened a small shop. In his films Refugee from Germany, Stateless of Polish Origin (1976) and Vienna Before Night (2017), Robert Bober traces his family origins, notably the story of his maternal great-grandfather who, fleeing Poland in the 1920s for the United States, was turned away upon arriving at Ellis Island, in New York, because he had contracted trachoma, a widely contagious disease.

And we must hear the voice, so full of love, of Robert Bober when he evokes this ancestor: “He was a tinsmith, he made candlesticks, and I wrote a text where I imagine a meeting with him, and c It’s certainly the best thing I’ve written. These are the pages that you should keep if you had to keep anything. »

At the request of Caroline Broué, Robert Bober then returns to the Vél’ d’Hiv roundup from which he narrowly escaped, unlike his childhood friend, Henri Beck. With memories come words but also tears, heavy breathing and the silence that the journalist lets us hear.

Literature, television and cinema

In episode 2, Robert Bober recounts how, when he confided to his friend Georges Perec (1936-1982) that he had an idea for a short story, the latter said to him: “You’re not telling it to me, you’re telling it to me. ‘write. » How, two years later, while putting away some papers, he came across it, showed it to Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens, who, after reading it in the night, said to him in turn: “I want the sequel. » Because the editor who is so missed – he died in a car accident on January 2, 2018 – had guessed that in fact, it was the beginning of What’s New on the War? (P.O.L, 1993), which won the Inter book prize in 1994.

Of these founding meetings, including that with François Truffaut (1932-1984), with whom Robert Bober would work, the latter would say: “I do not believe in chance”, before quoting the Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld, who died on the night of January 3 to 4, 2018: “When we meet someone, it’s a sign that we should cross their path, that we are going to receive from them something that we were missing. »

In the next episode, it will be about cinema, in particular Max Ophüls (1902-1957), his favorite filmmaker, or his first film for television on the Yiddish-language writer Sholem Aleikhem (1859-1916). Robert Bober then evokes the “friendly team” that he formed, for years, with Pierre Dumayet (1923-2011), who, with his program “Lectures pour tous” (1953-1968), contributed to bringing literature on television.

Films cut like clothing

He then remembers the show with Marguerite Duras which begins with twenty seconds of silence – in other words, for television, an eternity. Well beyond nostalgia, we feel a sincere admiration, and undoubtedly regret that, of the two films he dedicated to the journalist, one was only broadcast after the death of Pierre Dumayet and the other was never even shown.

At a time when the authorization to advertise books on television, launched on an experimental basis on April 6, is widely worrying publishers, and when literature and its nuances are sorely lacking in the world – and this, despite the remarkable work of Augustin Trapenard and “La Grande Librairie”, on France 5 – it would be so judicious to repair this injustice today.

All his life, Robert Bober cut and assembled his films like a piece of clothing or a puzzle, retouching and giving a unique form to his texts. And although he may say, in the last episode, that he is not a writer but “a filmmaker who writes books”, his books, strewn like little pebbles, are so essential that they are now studied in class, which, he admits, he is so proud of.