Bigoted Young Tintin

The current Tintin exhibition at the London Maritime Museum continues to generate ink, this time by A.N. Wilson in the Telegraph.

It speaks volumes about the difference between modern England and France that the only title unavailable in an English translation is Tintin au Congo, written in 1946. We had read it in English in a borrowed book, but after serious nagging from the youngest Tintin fan in the house, I went off to the European bookshop in Warwick Street to buy it new. When we had read Tintin au Congo together, the six-year-old remarked, with the accurate callousness of her age, that Herge had made the Africans really stupid, and also that he had depicted them as having black skins, whereas they should have been dark brown.
She could have gone further. The inhabitants of Congo with whom Tintin has dealings are not merely black, they are scarcely human. When Tintin records the cynical remarks made about them by their witch-doctor (“ce peuple ignorant et stupide sous domination de moi”) the villagers would only confirm his prejudice. They think he has been trapped in the actual horn of the phonograph. (The attempts by the Africans to get an antiquated steam engine back on the rails come to nought until Tintin bellows at them for their laziness.)

Later on, Wilson takes further exception to the book, noting that the African landscapes weren’t depicted as magically and beautifully as in “Tibet, South America and Arab lands,” where other Tintin adventures were set. See, all I remember from Tintin and The Crab With the Golden Claws are the savage ‘Berabers,’ and the mock Arabic script. Tintin and The Land of Black Gold stirs up memories of the evil Sheik and the insufferable Abdullah. The landscapes, if there were any, must have gone right over my head.

Link via Bookninja (again.)

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