First published: Summer 2008
Much has been written about Nedjar since Roger Cardinal's in-depth study published in Lausanne in 1990: of his childhood in a large Jewish family in an idyllic house with a garden in a northern suburb of Paris; of the brutal figure of his father, a Sephardi tailor reminiscent of Kafka's terrible genitor; of his Ashkenazi mother and his Polish, Yiddish-speaking grandmother, who introduced Nedjar to schmattes, the old rags which he later adopted as material for his handmade embryonic dolls. And of his encounter with Téo Hernandez, a Mexican experimental film-maker who became his mentor in the arts; and of their subsequent travels to Morocco, India, Mexico and elsewhere, after which he felt an urgent 'need to work in magic' and hence began his artistic production around May 1976.
One event that dates back to Nedjar's youth is often mentioned also, and is supposed to have been the original trauma that later triggered his creative output: the evening when, at the age of thirteen, he stumbled upon Alain Resnais' movie Nuit et Brouillard on television and discovered the terrifying reality of the Nazi concentration camps. 'I had two aunts who returned from Auschwitz and they told us,' recalls Nedjar. 'But words don't have the power of the image. Resnais' movie really shook me. After the Shoah, that was it: I had left Eden.' And it is a fact that, many years later, Nedjar discovered with amazement that he handled his dolls in the same way that he had seen the soldiers in the film pile up the corpses in the pits when he was a teenager.