old rumours about the creator of Tintin have resurfaced. One of them presents Hergé as a racist and anti-Semite..."
Yes, but in that case (if the reference is to the Assouline book) it is Tintin.com who may be perhaps inadvertently adding a sensational twist to things, by giving no context.
The biography presents allegations, for sure, but as made to Hergé in his life-time, and then gives his position on the accusations in quotes from the man.
The biography doesn’t decry him for what he did, it doesn’t castigate his work, or brand him an anti-Semite or a Fascist. Nor does it white-wash him, canonize him, or absolve him of anything.
It also is at pains to try and present the complicated political structure of a country which exists in a state of struggle even to this day, dividing on racial, religious, linguistic and political lines which have lead to all sorts of compromises and coalitions between people who might otherwise have nothing in common.
It does hold some of his assertions up to the light - for example, he apparently latterly suggested that because Black Island
had not been re-printed during the war, it had been banned by the Nazis, when in fact it was paper shortages which caused this, and that Raymond De Becker (editor of Le Soir
) had always been an anti-Rexist (Rex was the Belgian Fascist Party), when De Becker had spoken at one of their rallies, before later breaking off relations.
But it also makes clear that Hergé was not part of the exodus of staff who joined Léon Degrelle (formerly a colleague of Hergé’s at the Petit Vigtième
, later founder and leader of the Rexists) when he set up a rival publication, and records that in spite of engaging in banter over the rights and wrongs of the right wing, Henri Lemaire, a printer who opposed the occupation, considered Hergé a good guy who got involved with the wrong people.
Generally it suggests that while with hindsight some of his ideas and associations were perhaps not the best, he was not actively pursuing any political agenda by working for the “stolen” press, his ambitions were purely for the success of his strip. It also takes time to point out that Hergé resolutely adhered to the position of not excusing his actions, but explaining them, which is quite an admirable stand in itself, if not always meaning that we can agree with them. He didn’t try to cover up his activities, or make light of them, but offered them in the context of his age and society.
This is much in the same way that Sean Connery has lived with the statements he made in his early years that it was okay for a man to beat his wife: he doesn’t deny he said it, and he speaks of it as having been the way he was brought up. He is prepared to say that he doesn’t agree with the statement now, and I wonder should we hold such things against him after all these years?
As I said earlier, I think that this book is quite even-handed, as it places Hergé’s actions in a much wider picture, gives a flavour of how Hergé’s life was affected by what happened, talks about just how long it took for Belgium to accept him back, but doesn’t hide the fact that in the long run, he was
On the question of the veracity of the book, well he seems to have made clear attributions of his sources, so you could always check them out that way; like any scholar he will have sifted and filtered the material, but it’s up to us to judge in the end.
My thought would be that if there are
question marks over this book, that the archives he used should be opened up to other independent scholars, without any influence from the estate, and let them produce further works. One writer is bound to bring their own slant to things. Several people looking would lead to a point at which their works could be compared to each other, allowing a clearer picture to emerge.