January 29, 2008


So, as part of my French language training, I read Tintin. Everyone in France knows and has read Tintin. There is no comparison in the US. Tintin is a bande dessiné (a comic book), but that translation is not exact – les bandes dessinés are much more popular and well read in France than the sort of cult following of comic books in the United States. A Belgian artist (Hergé) created Tintin originally around 1930. (Xavier tells me that the largest part of comic books come from Belgium). Hergé depicts a young reporter and his dog Milou, who travel the world looking for adventure. They save empires, find stolen artifacts – they even go to the moon (long before Neil Armstrong made it there). Tintin is rife with the post-colonial paternalism of the first half of last century, but even still, Tintin is a classic. (And reading that mind-set helps me to comprehend French politics surrounding immigration a little better). I love reading Tintin because I pick up very proper French (no slang, no language shortcuts) as a result – Tintin is written in the clean, proper French of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. (Tintin cries: “Au secours!” (Help!) when he needs rescuing. Your average Jean-Pierre would never cry for help in this manner. Basically, you would know you were about to rescue Tintin if you heard that cry).

However, Tintin has produced a bit of tension between Xavier and me. One night, in the midst of one Tintin’s adventures in South America, I asked Xavier how old Tintin is. He looked at me like I was brainless and told me without hesitation that Tintin is in his early 30’s. I laughed. Xavier looked back at me, irritated, and asked me how old I presumed he was. This little guy is not even twenty. More like 15. Look at him. He is approximately two feet shorter than anyone around him and he has the hairdo of a newborn baby (who was born with hair). Xavier tried to convince me. His argument was that no 15 year-old has a job as an international journalist. No, no, I retorted, that is Tintin’s charm for kids. He is like their age and doing remarkable stuff (kind of like Spy Kids). I’m still convinced that Tintin is just a go-getter Belgian teen.

1 comment:

la_sale_bete said...

I am reading Tintin in English! (It's so that I can learn English better.) But that's a great coincidence. I'm reading one about treasure hunting (Red Rackham's Treasure). My favorite, I think, is the Yeti one (Tibet?) Also, I always thought that he was a teenager too, or that Francophone men don't hit puberty until they're like 35.

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