Billions of blue blistering barnacles!

Over at Soft Skull Press, Richard Eoin Nash offers some context on the politics of Tintin, in the form of an excerpt from the book, Tintin and the Secret of Literature. (It was first published in the UK by Granta; Soft Skull will offer the U.S. edition.) When the book was  written, Tintin in the Congo had apparently not yet been translated to English. It looks like a very interesting book. The excerpt acknowledges Tintin’s right-wing origins but then cites a swing to the left:

But almost as soon as this right-wing tendency gets going it becomes shadowed by a left-wing counter-tendency. In Tintin in America, which he published in book form in 1932, Herge bitingly satirises capitalist mass-production and American racism (the English translation has been softened: what the small-town bank clerk really tells the police who turn up after a heist is: ‘We immediately lynched seven Negroes’ – not ‘hoboes’ – ‘but the culprit got away.’). In The Blue Lotus Tintin snaps the cane with which an American oil magnate has been beating a Chinese rickshaw driver, exclaiming ‘Brute! Your conduct is disgraceful, Sir!’

In my memory, the visual racial stereotypes continued unabated — but, of course, those were different times.

That does it. I’m going to dig up my old box of Tintins and read them with a gimlet eye.

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Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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