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Tintin in the Congo: official word on the colour English edition?

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Richard
UK Correspondent
#11 · Posted: 13 Jan 2005 20:05 · Edited by: Richard
Considering the issue of "Congo" and the reasons why it hasn't been published in English yet, am I the only one who thinks that Egmont & co. are overreacting ? I know that a lot of the content is very un-PC, but really, is it that bad ?

If we think back to the issue of translating "The Blue Lotus", Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner were reluctant to work on it because they thought that the setting of the story, and the anti-Japanese caricatures, were perhaps too dated and controversial for the English market. They added the historical note at the beginning, and didn't hit any problems, as far as I know.

In my view, "Congo" wouldn't be any different to that. Put in a note about the book being a reflection of colonialist attitudes at the time (similar to the one in the black and white edition) and I don't think there would be a major outcry. Almost every other country has managed to publish the book without the country being up-in-arms about it, and despite our extremely PC-society, I think the book would pass.
nestor
Member
#12 · Posted: 13 Jan 2005 21:34
i agree wholeheartedly richard. is there a way we could start a petition?
jock123
Moderator
#13 · Posted: 13 Jan 2005 22:57
I disagree – I think that the concerns are legitimate for Egmont, so why should they compromise? I don’t see that Hergé was anything other than naïve and mis-guided, a product of his times, but the work is racially stereotyped in a way which is unacceptable to many, and Egmont can simply avoid upsetting anyone by leaving the book out of their catalogue.

However, I can see the legitimate demand from collectors is there, so I am sure that the colour English edition will come through some other channel.

Personally I feel a bit iffy about having the books on my shelf (I’ve a couple of copies of the colour French edition, and both editions of the B&W), and would be hard pressed to justify giving them to my nieces and nephews, for example. I’m disappointed that Hergé never took the time to restructure and re-draw this adventure to remove the anomolies of stereotypes.
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#14 · Posted: 14 Jan 2005 03:02 · Edited by: Harrock n roll
jock123 said: I’m disappointed that Hergé never took the time to restructure and re-draw this adventure to remove the anomolies of stereotypes.

To do so would certainly have meant leaving most of the original elements out - almost a complete rewrite. Hergé probably considered it one of his lesser works to rework it for a second time anyway. Then he would probably be accused of revisionism - trying to cover up and rework the books to live up to the values of the day. Better to write a completely different adventure than rewrite a weak one - and that's probably what he did!

One thing not mentioned so far is the superb artwork in the colour version. It's also quite astounding when you consider that Hergé had just stopped working on The Seven Crystal Balls. I love the simplicity of it.

We all know the politics are very dodgy but it has to be done - it's the only colour book not in English, then that's it ! Completion!!
jock123
Moderator
#15 · Posted: 14 Jan 2005 07:55
I think that being accused of revisionism is a lesser thing than being accused of racism, especially when it is positive revisionism.

If it was such a lesser work in his eyes, he could simply have withdrawn it like he did “Soviets” - but he revised it for colour and animal conservation issues, but not for the more questionable racist over-tones.

We are now looking at having a possibly offensive book published with the excuse of an explanation about the morés of the past in the front. How much better for Hergé to have republished the book himself to reflect his later more enlightened opinions, with his own apologia on the fly-leaf.
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#16 · Posted: 14 Jan 2005 12:28 · Edited by: Harrock n roll
jock123: How much better for Hergé to have republished the book himself to reflect his later more enlightened opinions, with his own apologia on the fly-leaf.

Or how much better that Hergé moved on to write other adventures that reflected his later more enlightened opinions?
OJG
Member
#17 · Posted: 14 Jan 2005 13:08
I’m disappointed that Hergé never took the time to restructure and re-draw this adventure to remove the anomolies of stereotypes.

I have Tintin and the World of Hergé and remember reading that Hergé never wanted to do Congo anyway-he wanted to send Tintin to America. But the director of Le Petit Vingtième, Father Wallez, wanted Tintin to go the Belgian Congo. Hergé just kind of went along with the idea, but because of his lack of interest in it, he never put his heart into it fully. I don't think that Hergé would want to go back to the story years later, especially after having revised certain parts already. He probably felt like he could never shake the story off.

Personally, I can see the controversial issue of publishing the colour version in English, but I am a Tintinophile and I would really love to see it. To have a page at the front to explain that Hergé was not a racist but was going on all he knew about Africans at that early stage of his career, and that the book was a reflection of the world back then and not now should eliminate any controversy.
Richard
UK Correspondent
#18 · Posted: 14 Jan 2005 20:17
Admittedly, Egmont aren't offending anyone by not publishing the book, but the English-speaking fans are missing out on an adventure of Tintin - and as Harrock pointed out, an excellently-drawn one. In my opinion, the underwater scenes at the beginning of the book are superb, especially the beautiful colouring. Also the half-page drawing of the elephant chasing Tintin and Snowy is stunning.

Of course, a formal apologia by Hergé would now be impossible, but it would be worth quoting from "Entretiens avec Hergé" in a foreward. Parallels could - and should - be drawn with "The Red Sea Sharks", with its sympathetic treatment of the Africans. Haddock's tirade against the slave trader should definitely be cited as showing just how far Hergé had progressed with regard to his portrayal of Africans.

The historical importance of this book shouldn't be ignored - as a sort of documentary-on-paper, it's invaluable, and equally significant as a piece of Tintin's history. I personally don't think that it's right to whitewash history, and to not publish the book does not mean that it doesn't exist. As for the concept of being offended by it - no one is forced to read it. I still maintain that a sufficient foreward with a cautionary warning would be enough to avoid a major outcry.

And as Benjamin Franklin said, "If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed."
jock123
Moderator
#19 · Posted: 15 Jan 2005 01:05 · Edited by: jock123
Does Hergé actually mention the issue in the Sadoul book? What did he have to say?

I take on board what you have to say, but I am not sure that it is actually, in the scheme of things, important: to us as a group of fans maybe, but we are relatively few in number, our desire to read a book is insignificant in the world, and nothing compared to the hurt that something which may appear to propagate a negative stereotype mjght cause to a far greater number of people.

I grew up collecting Robertson’s golliwogs - my gran collected the little tokens from jam pots, I bundled them up, sent them off, and back came a china figurine, usually with a musical instrument; I almost managed to collect a jazz band of them. I still have a couple of them at home today, which survived the rough-and-tumble of my brothers and sisters. I also have a much loved cloth golliwog, which is dressed as a minstrel, and which shared many adventures with me, my scabby plush mouse (called “Mouse” - long since vanished), and my knitted clown; years later I had at one point to go and buy him back from a Church sale of work, when my mum gave him away in a box of toys - slightly unusual for a man in his late twenties, i’ll grant you. I even have a second golly, which someone gave me in the mistaken belief that my first (rescued) golly was lost to the jumble sale, and was perhaps a strange present for a man by then in his middle thirties...

However, much as I personally loved my golly, I am not either surprised or sad that the golly has gone from the jam lable, the toy shop, the Noddy books, the conciousness; it had its day, and then it slipped away, and now you can go to toy shops and buy reasonable dolls of all ethnicities; those who want to can still see them in toy museums, and read about them, but that‘s enough, really. I’m not certain that “Congo” hasn’t had its day, and should just be let fade away... I can’t easily admire that artwork, or see it as a great achievement, when there is so much else that is wrong with it, which could have been put right.
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#20 · Posted: 15 Jan 2005 03:24
I take on board what you have to say, but I am not sure that it is actually, in the scheme of things, important: to us as a group of fans maybe, but we are relatively few in number, our desire to read a book is insignificant in the world, and nothing compared to the hurt that something which may appear to propagate a negative stereotype mjght cause to a far greater number of people.

No offence Simon, but I don't buy that argument! To quote from your own excellent report of the World of Tintin conference at which the book release was announced: “they have established to their satisfaction that people can see that the early ones are products of their times, in their historical context: apparently not a single complaint came in after the B&W Soviets and Congo books came out, thanks to the inclusion of disclaimers.”

So if there was not a single complaint about the b/w facsimile why should there be for the colour edition? I really can't see on the evidence that a greater number might be offended than would desire to read the book. I'm pretty confident that once this book is released there won't be a single complaint - sure there'll be some discussions on Radio 4, was Hergé a racist, etc...

A couple of years back I spent a year as researcher/designer for a book on African history made for an American publishers. I must say it was a huge education, a real eye-opener. It made me realise that there's a vast difference between being offended by the concepts of colonialism, racial stereo-typing, etc and an historical document that contains those concepts (which Congo whether it intended to be or not invariably is.)

Congo viewed within an historical context is not something I believe we should be offended by but something we can learn from and accept that it was a part of our history. And that surely applies to all history, good and bad.

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