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King Ottokar's Sceptre: Which twin did what?

robbo
Member
#1 · Posted: 2 Sep 2014 18:24 · Edited by: robbo
I'm not sure this has been covered on Tintinologist before but I cannot find anything.

I have always been confused by (the bad twin) Alfred Alembick's reaction of horror to Tintin's ejection from the plane on route to Klow. Was his reaction genuine, in which case why wasn't he informed by his collaborators in advance, or was it an act? (completely unnecessary) I can see that Herge wanted to maintain suspense and mystery, but how does it make sense given the circumstances?

Another point which always mystified me for many years arose from the point in the story when the existence of twins, Alfred and Hector, was revealed to the reader and Tintin: the notebook (containing photos and information on subjects deemed opponents to the fascist political plot) found on and used by the arrested twin didn't make sense as it seemed to be written by the innocent professor yet spoke of enemies. The penny only recently dropped that the text must have been deliberately falsified to look like it was written by Hector; in which case why?

In addition it also makes no sense that Hector would have been kidnapped at the very moment he was making a telephone call to Tintin thus arousing suspicion from the beginning.

In the end not much is explained regarding the twin's relationship and what Alfred's motivation was for getting involved in a political plot involving another country.

mat
mct16
Member
#2 · Posted: 2 Sep 2014 22:50
robbo:
Was his reaction genuine

I'd say that Alfred's reaction is of genuine shock and surprise and that he did not expect this. The fascists who employed him did not necessarily tell him what they intended to do with Tintin. Their attitude may have been: "just play the part of your brother and leave the rest to us."

robbo:
text must have been deliberately falsified to look like it was written by Hector; in which case why?

Alfred is supposed to live and breath the part of his brother. He must feel fully in the part in order to deceive people who know Nestor well and could see through him. Thus he must think "I am Nestor" and not "I am Alfred pretending to be Nestor".

I believe that there are actors who, while preparing for a part, make notes about the character as if they were the character. For example, while researching his part, an actor might note "He and I were very close. He always amused me", rather than "Hamlet and Yorick were very close. Yorick always amused Hamlet" which sounds rather impersonal.

robbo:
it also makes no sense that Hector would have been kidnapped at the very moment he was making a telephone call to Tintin

I think that is just a case of bad timing. They just happened to break into his flat and seize him when he was making a call.
robbo
Member
#3 · Posted: 3 Sep 2014 12:31 · Edited by: robbo
Thanks mct16 for your interesting reply. I'd never considered the angle you put forward likening Alfred's need to learn his role like an actor; I can well see that he would have most likely gone through this process in King Ottokar's Sceptre.

However regarding the precise nature of the purpose of the notebook this angle is somewhat at odds with the explanation given near the end of the album by the Minister of the Interior when Tintin asks what the book was for. The Minister replies "So that they would know everyone who went to see the real Professor" which implies that the notebook was intended for a shared/public readership as a kind of manual used by those plotters acting from Belgium. It doesn't make sense to me that such a manual should be written in what would surely be a confusing fictional first person narrative. I also don't see that such a diary-like notebook would actually help Alfred take on Hector's personality as the entries are completely at cross purposes thus creating a psychological rift. Surely if Alfred had really wanted to act the role and convince others he would have taken up smoking and adhered to a pretence of being short-sighted.

Regarding the incident in the plane I still think Alfred would have been prepared for Tintin being eliminated in the near future and yet his reaction was identical to that of someone who really was a genuine friend. The French exclamation of 'horreur' is actually slightly more convincing than 'Tintin!' in the English version. After all Alfred shows absolutely no emotion nor any concern for Tintin's welfare after the event.

Having said all that, I actually think Herge knew exactly what he was doing and fully intended to write the story like this, thus keeping the reader in suspense, enticing us to go back and attempt to piece actual events together for ourselves; it's actually my favourite part of the book!

mat
mct16
Member
#4 · Posted: 3 Sep 2014 15:59
robbo:
The Minister replies "So that they would know everyone who went to see the real Professor" which implies that the notebook was intended for a shared/public readership

That might be the English version, but in the original French Tintin and the minister are only talking about Alfred and why he needed the notebook. The minister's actual words would be: "In order that HE would recognise without fail the people who frequented the real Professor Alembick".

robbo:
Regarding the incident in the plane

I still think that Alfred is genuinely surprised by what happens to Tintin. If the plotters did not inform him in advance of what they intended to do then seeing a companion (even an enemy) fall out of the plane would come as a shock to anyone.

If he had been told in advance then I image him smiling, waving and saying "Bye-bye" as Tintin falls to a certain death, which is not the case here.

Rather than shout "TINTIN?!" I think that the translators should have had him saying something like "WHAT THE...!"

As for his lack of "concern for Tintin's welfare", in all his subsequent scenes, we only see him with guards, officers and officials and he certainly can't talk to them about the fate of his secretary or it would ruin the entire operation. In these scenes he is playing Nestor down to a T.

robbo:
Surely if Alfred had really wanted to act the role and convince others he would have taken up smoking and adhered to a pretence of being short-sighted.

A neglect on his part obviously. Nestor may be a brilliant scholar but in other respects the Alembick brothers don't strike me as especially bright or well-organised: the way Nestor keeps throwing his lit cigarettes on the floor or delays hiring a secretary just a couple of days before he is due to leave: Tintin sees him one morning (as mentioned by the plotters on page 11) and twenty-four hours later they leave for Syldavia (page 16).

On that basis, Alfred may have neglected to be scrupulous in matching his brother's habits. In any case, apart from Tintin who does not know Nestor that well, Alfred did not expect to meet any of Nestor's acquaintances while in Syldavia.
robbo
Member
#5 · Posted: 4 Sep 2014 13:02
mct16:
That might be the English version, but in the original French Tintin and the minister are only talking about Alfred and why he needed the notebook. The minister's actual words would be: "In order that HE would recognise without fail the people who frequented the real Professor Alembick".

But the minister doesn't actually say he, he simply answers 'to be able to recognize without doubt the people...'

I agree with your explanation as to why Alfred wrote the notebook imagining he was in Hector's shoes, but there is definitely a public/shared purpose to the book. I don't think the English translators would have made such a mistake as this, I believe it was an intelligent interpretation.

Another clue regarding the use and purpose of the notebook is the heavy text 'liquidated' and 'don't trust him' which I would assume were written by another member of the plotting group, as well as the fact that the failed photo of Tintin was taken by someone else.

As an aside I think it's interesting that the English translators got rid of the name Nestor, probably as Nestor the butler had appeared by then in the series. Also I note the date on the twin's photo is changed from 1934 to 1947 which would place the story after WWII.
mct16
Member
#6 · Posted: 4 Sep 2014 23:33 · Edited by: mct16
robbo:
I don't think the English translators would have made such a mistake as this, I believe it was an intelligent interpretation.

As regulars of this forum know all too well, I am not exactly a great fan of the English translations of the original French comics - but maybe my own leave a little to be desired.

A more direct translation of that panel would be:

TINTIN: It's incredible!... But what would he have needed this notebook for?...
MINISTER: In order to recognise without fail the people whom the real professor Alembick frequented... For here is a photograph which our police also obtained and which will give you the key to the puzzle...

Nowhere in this panel, in the original French, is the notebook mentioned as being used by a group of people. It was simply for the use of a single individual, Alfred.

robbo:
Another clue regarding the use and purpose of the notebook is the heavy text 'liquidated' and 'don't trust him'

Well, I think that those are still for Alfred's benefit. In the case of Kaviarovitch it informs him that that man has been liquidated and thus not someone he needs to look out for, whereas Tintin is someone to be wary of.

robbo:
As an aside I think it's interesting that the English translators got rid of the name Nestor, probably as Nestor the butler had appeared by then in the series. Also I note the date on the twin's photo is changed from 1934 to 1947 which would place the story after WWII.

Here's another one:
in the original black-and-white edition of "Sceptre" published before the war, the minister tells Tintin that the photo was found at Musstler's place;

in the post-war colour edition he does not mention where the police got the photo;

the English translation of the same colour edition also mentions "Musstler's house". Another liberty on their part, or had they also read the black-and-white version?
mct16
Member
#7 · Posted: 31 Aug 2018 13:34
Further to the last statement above, here's a couple of other curious facts from the same scene:

In the original French black-and-white book edition, when he gives Tintin the notebook, the minister tells him that Alembick went to hide in Musstler's residence "after the theft of the sceptre".

In the French colour edition, he does not mention "after the theft of the sceptre"; but in the English colour edition he does mention "after the theft of the sceptre".

In the black-and-white and English editions he also states that the photo of the twins was also found at Musstler's residence; in the French colour edition he simply says that the police obtained the photo but not where.

It would seem that the English translators did have a copy of the French black-and-white book edition and did use some passages from it when translating the English colour version.
jock123
Moderator
#8 · Posted: 31 Aug 2018 19:58
mct16:
It would seem that the English translators did have a copy of the French black-and-white book edition and did use some passages from it when translating the English colour version.

It's interesting to note the difference, but it's open to speculation what produced the changes.

While you still appear to cleave to your belief that nothing pleased the translators than to make arbitrary changes to the text, or to command the studios to give then a map with a different route, at least some of the same information is available in the English version to be found in the Eagle in 1952.

There is no mention of Alembick having been discovered "after the theft of the sceptre" in that version, but it is stated that the photo of the twins was "seized at Müsstler's".

So it while it could be that LL-C & MT went back to the black-and-white album, there's also the possibility that there was reference to the Eagle version.

It could also be that there is an urtext, prepared by the Studios for use in translating the Casterman-supplied text used by Eagle, and supplied to LL-C & MT in turn. This has the additional advantage of presumably being a complete text: the Eagle, in running the story in an oddly-proportioned landscape format across two pages, but only two tiers of frames high, dropped some frames, meaning that their's was an incomplete version. As both the later translators were perfectly capable of dealing with the French text, it would seem unlikely that they would feel the need to resort to re-drafting an older, partial, English text.

It may be even easier to explain by positing that the alteration was made by Hergé in discussion with the Methuen team; it would seem characteristic of Michael Turner's nature to enquire where the picture of the Alembicks came from.

But this is only speculation...

So, while this is a good catch, like the recent mention of the change of reason for Alembick's visit to Syldavia, this definitely adds to the richness of the history of the story, but I think we need to have more information before attributing reasons for how it came about.

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