Serres on Tintin

French philosopher Michel Serres on Tintin. If anyone could translate some of the key details please do get in touch UPDATE Terence Blake has kindly translated the video here – although from Serres’ body language and gesticulations I do get the feeling he’s a rather big “Tintinophile”.

My undergraduate dissertation was a postcolonial reading of four Tintin titles – Tintin in the Congo, Land of Black Gold, King Ottokar’s Sceptre and Tintin and the Picaros – and I remain deeply interested in the cultural legacy of Hergé’s most famous series. My argument, which I continue to support now, was that Hergé’s treasured creation was deeply and inherently Colonialist, with all the racial, imperial and paternalistic connotations that came with it. Part of my attempt was to move beyond the official narrative that I believe has plagued common readings of the series so far; that the early overtly racist (Congo) and propagandist (Land of the Soviets) titles were simply the results of youthful folly under the tutorship of a Catholic abbot. I claimed that, throughout, Hergé had utilized his ligne claire style of drawing to create an allure of social truth, realism and objectivity, whilst ‘othering’ a whole host of characters from West Africa (in Congo), the Middle East (Arabs in Black Gold, Jews in The Shooting Star), South America (in Picaros) and Japan (in Blue Lotus).

I was just discovering Said’s magisterial Orientalism (1978) and getting to grips with Derek Gregory’s incredible Geographical Imaginations (1994) and his later work on The Colonial Present (2004) so to say I was influenced by subaltern and postcolonial studies is putting it lightly. Other titles by James Ryan, Jason Dittmer, Thierry Groensteen, Catherine Lutz & Jane Collins were all massive influences on my reading of imperialism, geopolitics, bande dessinée and photography. I’ve uploaded the thesis to my about page if anyone is interested. All the aforementioned titles are referenced within.   

Famously, Charles de Gaulle said Tintin was his only international threat, and Serres himself also declared Hergé to have had the “most impact on contemporary French life” of any author, ever. The irony of both these comments, of course, was that neither Hergé or Tintin were actually French themselves – both being proudly, yet perhaps indistinctly, Belgian.

A new temporary exhibition on Tintin in India has launched this week at the Musée Hergé for those in the Brussels area too, and runs until January 2014. 

A different sort of hell

Derek Gregory on Joe Sacco’s stunning new title, a 24ft illustration entitled ‘The Great War: July 1, 1916’.

The comparisons to Hergé are apt in this context, seeing as Hergé himself didn’t travel in the first instance to most of the places he depicted in his graphic novels. Only later did he see reason to, and thus only later did he realize the errors of his career to that point. The National Geographic providing the inspiration for most of Tintin’s (mis)adventures. On this occasion Sacco hasn’t either – that might’ve require some difficult time-travelling in order to capture first-hand the brutal reality of war. Nonetheless, with the aid of the Imperial War Museum’s archives, Sacco has rendered the first day of the Battle of the Somme as barbaric, messy and as shocking as it truly was. 

geographical imaginations

I’ve been in Grant Writing Hell for most of last week and right through this long week-end. Everything has to be in by tomorrow morning, and I’ll post the final version of what has become Medical-military machines and casualties of war 1914-2014 once it’s done and I am in recovery (for an early preview see here).  If only I could track down whoever persuaded the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (and the rest of the world for that matter) that drop-down menus achieve consistency and save time… They don’t; apart from the time taken to scroll through endless lists the pre-selected categories never seem to quite fit so you have to click “Other” AND THEN TYPE IT IN ANYWAY.

SACCO The Great War

But I must stick my head above the parapet to notice Joe Sacco‘s forthcoming book The Great War, July 1, 1916, due out at the end of this…

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