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Paul Remi: Hergé’s relationship with his brother?

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SakuraT5
Member
#1 · Posted: 9 Aug 2007 05:34
Although I feel I know a lot about Georges Remi and his life and his work, I really want to know about his brother, Paul Remi, who was the real-life Tintin inspiration for Hergé.
A couple of months back I read an article about Hergé in which it was written that he and his brother were estranged. Is it really true?
Balthazar
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 9 Aug 2007 10:55
From what I've read, although the two brothers didn't get on very well, to say they were estranged would be an exaggeration.

According to Harry Thompson's biography (which admittedly is inaccurate in places), Hergé's brother Paul was not only the inspiration for Tintin, but also (once Paul had reached middle age) the inspiration for Colonel Sponsz in The Calculus Affair. Apparently the middle-aged Paul's hair-style really was as peculiar as Sponsz's, with his Tintin-like quiff retained at the front, but bald elsewhere on his head. But I think the Sponsz portrayal was done in the spirit of a cheekily cruel caricature of his brother, rather than an out-and-out malevolent one. I'm sure I read somewhere on this forum (in a post by Harrock or jock, I think) that Paul gave Hergé advice on horseriding positions for the next book, The Red Sea Sharks, so he can't have been that offended by the Sponsz caricature.

In recent years Paul's son has had the odd spat with Hergé's estate, accusing them of keeping Tintin's image out of a big public celebration in Belgium by being too greedy in their demands for payment, in a way he claimed his late uncle would not have approved. I think I recall reading that he said that Hergé was a good uncle and quite close to him, which again suggests Hergé and Paul weren't estranged.

As you can see, though, my information is incomplete and half-remembered. The article you read may have been based on one of the more recent biographies published in French. Certainly, when it comes to other aspects of Hergé's personal life, each biography seems to contradict assertions made in previous biographies. (I wish my French was good enough to read the actual books instead of just the bits and pieces that get reported!)

In view of the spat between Paul's son and the estate over who knows Hergé's views best, it occurs to me that the question of whether Hergé was estranged from Paul may have become a more hotly contested issue. But I don't know if that's the case.
cigars of the beeper
Member
#3 · Posted: 9 Aug 2007 12:20
According to Harry Thompson's biography

A biography of Herge? where can I find it?
Balthazar
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 9 Aug 2007 13:28 · Edited by: Balthazar
Harry Thompson's book, Tintin - Hergé and his creation, was first published in 1991, and I think it's out of print. But I believe you can find it sometimes on second-hand book websites.

Looking at the back of my paperback copy, I see that it cost £5.99 new, back in 1992, but I think I read that second-hand copies now go for quite a bit of money. I now wish I'd had the foresight and ready cash to buy up several copies when it came out, so I could sell the surplus ones at a vast profit now! I suppose that's the case with quite a few of the Tintin-related books on my bookshelf, and other comic books. But maybe it's better not to have a brain that thinks about books as investment opportunities.

Harry Thompson's book was unauthorised by Hergé's estate, and they disapproved of it. They were quick to point out that it contains some factual innacuracies (which it does), but you can't help wondering if their disapproval of the book had more to do with Thompson's slightly unflattering remarks about the way the various factions of Hergé's estate and publishers had been squabbling over the rights to Hergé's work following his death. Whatever the case, it's a well-written good read, even if you shouldn't trust all the factual statements as gospel.

Interestingly, Harry Thompson's book is very critical of some of the officially approved psychobabble written about Tintin by French intellectuals, and to illustrate this, Thompson quotes a particularly bonkers passage from Phillipe Goddin's 1986 book Hergé and Tintin Reporters in its English translation by none other than Micael Farr.

Equally interestingly, Michael Farr, in his 2001 book, Tintin: the Complete Companion, takes quite a few opportunities to make rather savage subjective criticisms of the work of people who just happened to assist Harry Thompson with his unauthorized biograhy - namely Bob de Moor, the English translators Michael Turner and Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper, and Methuen generally. Coincidence? Or score-settling?

Sorry, I've slid off-topic.
sliat_1981
Member
#5 · Posted: 10 Aug 2007 10:16
It was impossible to find here, despite me having the advertisement for it (I still have it).
I'm not sure that because Paul's son and Herge got on well meant that Paul and Herge did. My uncle introduced me to Tintin and is by far my favourite, yet him and my dad seem to hate each others guts.
Balthazar
Moderator
#6 · Posted: 15 Aug 2007 10:11
Typing "Paul Remi" into Google image search led me to this picture of Paul Remi, still looking a bit like Tintin but beginning to look more than a little like Sponsz:

http://e.tintin.tk.free.fr/images/divers/paulremi.gif

and also to this website run by Georges Remi junior (Paul's son, Hergé's nephew) featuring three books about horse riding written and drawn by Paul Remi in his sixties, at the end of his career as an army officer:

http://www.dessins-a-cheval.eu/index.html

If you click your way through the different sections of the website, you'll see plenty of the books' plates. I've never seen these before, so thanks for prompting me to find this site, Sakura. It may be of interest to other Tintinologists too. Paul seems to have drawn in a quite similar style to his brother, though his drawing is a good bit tighter, stiffer and fussier (maybe reflecting his more military character!)

The site also has an order form for buying the books (I think it says that Georges Remi junior has published these books himself), and a contact email link, through which you could presumeably try to ask Georges junior more about his father. Hope that helps, Sakura!

Sliat_81 has a point that just because Hergé got on well with his nephew, it doesn't necessarily follow that he got on well with his brother. But the fact that Paul named his son after his brother surely suggests there was some brotherly affection between them!
jock123
Moderator
#7 · Posted: 15 Aug 2007 12:07 · Edited by: jock123
Thanks, Balthazar - I'll check that site out later!

I think that the idea of the Remi brothers being at daggers drawn is a bit of a myth. There may have been a bit of fraternal/ familial friction, but that's not unusual, is it? Paul may have been exasperated by the fact that he was always being teased for his looking like Tintin, leading to his radical Erich Von Stroheim-esque hair cut make-over, but I think (as Michael Farr has pointed out) that the fact that he continued to assist Georges with the drawing of matters equestrian (his sequence of sketches for Haddock on the horse in Red sea Sharks are quite loose and free-flowing, and really fine pencil work) even after being re-imortalized as Sponz, shows that he may have had a sense of humour about it after all.
mct16
Member
#8 · Posted: 21 Apr 2013 14:35 · Edited by: mct16
Herge's nephew and godson, Georges Remi jr, has written a book "Un Oncle nommé Hergé" (French for "An Uncle called Hergé") in which he describes his relationship with his Uncle Georges and also dwells on Herge's relationship with his brother Paul.

According to the reviews, it also focuses on the conflict between Herge's relatives and Nick Rodwell, the head of Moulinsart, who is criticised for the way he exploits Tintin while failing to maintain the spirit of the series.

I've read the opening pages of the book. I can't say that the Remi family strikes me as particularly close. It starts for example with an incident in 1979: Georges jr. was himself an artist and had invited his uncle to the preview of an art exhibition of his work. Herge has sent a letter, typed out on a typewriter - as if by a secretary - declining the invitation due to an argument that they had had earlier and for which "you [the nephew] had not yet had the decency to apologize for." Georges jr. describes himself as being furious with this snub - though he does not mention the details of the argument itself.

This book, along with Benoit Peeters' "Hergé, Son of Tintin", indicates that Paul was very frustrated over the five years he spent in a POW camp during the war, especially given the fact that his brother, rather than help in the resistance, spent the same period working for "Le Soir", a newspaper which collaborated with the Germans.

What is more, while Paul's military career made little progress, his brother's went from strength to strength and these factors led Paul to drink. It seems that Herge was even concerned by Paul's parenting and suggested adopting his children. The children themselves did not like this idea, due in part to the fact that just visiting Uncle Georges meant being very quiet and careful about the house and Georges jr. would get so bored that he would ask to be allowed to leave early rather than stay any longer. Denise, the daughter, even resented the way in which, while she was still at school, Herge would answer her letters with the same wavy handwriting and spelling mistakes.

Georges jr is himself an artist, much of which is centred on the sea. His work is very nice, especially the way in which he catches the waves splashing about the ocean. Here's a gallery of some of his paintings on his website.
rodney
Member
#9 · Posted: 22 Apr 2013 10:00 · Edited by: rodney
Perhaps it's just simply sibling rivalry and the jealous/resentful feelings Paul had owing to the fact that Herge was ultimately been a success when Paul simply lived in his shadow.

Paul obviously wanted to be a success in his own right - every person does and you can't help but emphasise that Paul was not a success, at least not in the same calibre as his brother was.

Throughout your life, this would have difficult to accept as everyone wants to do well. How do you compare yourself with someone who's constantly hailed as a genius?
Every time he went about life he was probably exposed to this (don't know for sure but it's my best guess!)

Let's not forget Herge was not perfect, he had massive issues himself which indeed are well documented...

I think in the end Paul probably loved his brother, was proud of his achievements but realistically Herge's success possibly made his life difficult to measure up to?

What do you think?
jock123
Moderator
#10 · Posted: 22 Apr 2013 12:36 · Edited by: jock123
It's odd, given that the younger Georges is now so critical of his uncle and his legacy, that he still trades on the relationship by adopting the "Georges Jr." styling, which usually expresses a father/ son family tie: he's not the artist's son, only his nephew, so it's slightly unusual for him to make the casual reader think that it is otherwise.

If Uncle Georges was so intimidating, so unbearable to visit and such a trial to your father, would it not be more believable if nephew Georges played down the connection, rather than emphasized it...?

In regard to the letter being typed: just about all of Hergé's correspondence was typed, and it wasn't uncommon back in the day, any more than it is today when messages are largely in electronic format, so I don't think that it's necessary to read anything into that.

Add to that, as you say we don't know what the argument had been about, so maybe Hergé was quite right in suggesting that his nephew apologize to him, before relying on that same uncle whom the nephew appears not to have liked too much turning up to boost the nephew's show (which would no doubt have been a bit of a coups).

As I mentioned previously, Paul helped Hergé with the horses in Red Sea Sharks, so his time as a PoW and considerations of collaboration didn't seem to preclude him working with his brother.

I'm not suggesting that Georges Jr. doesn't believe and stand behind everything he says in the book and elsewhere; however it is still only one side of a coin.

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