La neuvième art

Thanks to the bf taking a last minute dip into the newsagents as we waiting for our flight at Geneva airport I managed to snap up number 8 in The Adventures of Tintin; Le Sceptre d’Ottokar. Any of you who have set foot in a French household (particularly those with children) or bookshop will have no doubt come across their passion for les BDs (bandes-dessinées) that often cover half the shop floor and range from the classic albums (such as the adventures of Tintin and Milou – or Snowy) childrens stories to the very adult and fantastical artwork.  Although my interest in these comics really only extends to the classic stories that, as well as being entertaining, I find particularly pleasing to the eye, the French go mad for their ‘neuvième art.’

My interest in these albums began when I was living in Strasbourg and in desperate need of some entertainment. After visiting a colleague’s house and seeing the colourful collection his children had amassed I decided to have a read myself. Although they are of course widely available in English, I do buy the Tintin adventures in their original French which gives me the opportunity to learn as well as be entertained.  
Tintin is of course a popular childhood character for many people, but we mustn’t be deceived.  It is impressive how complex plot lines and characters can be forged out of a comic strip format and added to this is the often very political and historical context. What many fail to realise is the fact that Tintin and Snowy were originally created by Belgian artist Hergé as part of a series in a children’s newspaper commissioned by the fascists as anti-Marxist propoganda.  The result is glaringly obvious, as we can see below:
This was eventually made into a book and Hergé continued with the, now decidedly racist in our modern eyes; Tintin in the Congo:

I heard a couple of years ago that the authorities were considering taking this book off the shelves due to the racism that was unfortunately quite characteristic of society at the time.  I frankly found this proposal ridiculous.  The sheer amount of novels I have read where the racism is almost palpable is …well, innumerable, but nevertheless an unavoidable sign of the times.  How can we possibly learn from the mistakes and misjudgments our ancestors made if we censor everything into oblivion?
Anyway, rant over, I love Tintin all the same, I’m on my way to collecting all twenty-four.  Most importantly, they’re just a bit of fun and look brilliant on the shelf!

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