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Talk: Benoît Peeters - "Hergé and the Creation of Tintin", 15/10/2018, Lancaster U.K.

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#1 · Posted: 20 Sep 2018 17:19
Just found out about an event next month - Benoît Peeters, biographer of Hergé and scholar of all things Tintin-related is to give a talk entitled Hergé and the Creation of Tintin, held under the auspices of Lancaster University (where M. Peeters is currently their first Professor of Graphic Fiction and Comic Art).

The talk takes place at The Storey, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster LA1 1TH, on Monday the 15th of October, 2018, from 19:30 – 20:30, followed by a drinks reception. It is free to attend, but tickets need to be reserved using this link.

I'm sure that this will be a fascinating talk, and well worth attending if you can make it.

Professor Peeter's book Le Monde d'Hergé was my first "behind the scenes" look at the works of Hergé, and still remains a "go to" source for all manner of information on the Tintin books; equally, his biography Hergé - Son of Tintin is probably the best of the available books on that subject.
#2 · Posted: 28 Sep 2018 22:01
Is there a chance this talk will be recorded?.
#3 · Posted: 16 Oct 2018 11:57
Hello all!

After attending the Tintin Conference held by Leeds Beckett University in June, I didn't expect to attend another academic event related to Tintin back up north so soon!

This time I was at the above stated public lecture, Hergé and the creation of Tintin by Benoît Peeters for Lancaster University's arts department. It was held in a lovely restored building named The Storey, just down the road from Lancaster station. As it was a public lecture, it meant anyone (including non student me) could attend as long as they booked a place on EventBrite. Unfortunately it wasn't live streamed or recorded for the general public, to answer number1fan's question.

In the small auditorium where the lecture was being held, there was a Blackwell's bookshop stall. A selection of paperback stories were on display as well as Prof. Peeters' Herge - Son of Tintin biography and Michael Farr's Tintin - The Complete Companion. I presumed this was more for interested parties who were being introduced to Hergé and Tintin via the lecture than seasoned fans.

Prof. Peeters' lecture itself recapped Hergé's life and the creation of Tintin and was just over an hour long. It was essentially a very abridged version of his biography, albeit with no mention of Quick and Flupke or Jo, Zette and Jocko. The adaptations produced during Hergé's lifetime, bar Spielberg's 2011 film, weren't brought up either. What I did appreciate was Prof. Peeters bringing up the political context Tintin was produced in and Hergé's regrettable situation during World War II. It is very easy to gloss over that period and minimise Hergé's mistakes so he would appear innocent, as we know some authors have a tendency to do.

After the lecture ended, Prof. Peeters was kind enough to sign my biography copy (also signing the date and location!) and we had a small pleasant chat after. I did ask his opinion on Captain Haddock's nationality out of curiosity and having enquired Michael Farr earlier this year. His response was the Captain can be interpreted as British for his mannerisms and whisky fondness, though did not necessarily state that was his interpretation.

Overall, whilst it went over old ground for me, the lecture was a nice introduction for university students to Hergé and The Adventures of Tintin. Hopefully Prof. Peeters will do more public lectures about Hergé and Tintin in the future.
#4 · Posted: 18 Oct 2018 14:32
Thanks - that's a great synopsis, and it sounds like you had a lot of fun! :-)
#5 · Posted: 2 Nov 2018 02:07
Thank you for the report but I have a doubt: You state
«It is very easy to gloss over that period and minimise Hergé's mistakes so he would appear innocent». Mistakes, plural. As far as I know Hergé, having declined to publish Tintin's Adventures in Rex's paper, went on publishing our hero in Le Soir, a newspaper at the time under German control. Is there any other "mistake" you know about?
#6 · Posted: 2 Nov 2018 18:28
I think you may be quibbling slightly over what is idiomatic English in this instance; you might see continuing to work for the "stolen" Le Soir as a single mistake - others might define working for the paper over a period of time to be a series of "mistakes", work being an accumulation of actions, all of which might be classed as errors if the sum total is a general mistake.

However, one might see the fact that Hergé not only worked for a German-controlled newspaper, but continued to profit from the books he produced both during the war and after as "mistakes"; likewise, he was able to continue benefiting both financially and in the continued growth of his readership from the publishing and selling books even when paper was rationed; Benoît Peeters in his biography of Hergé points to a specific letter sent by Charles Lesne, warning Hergé that a deal for Het Laatste Nieuws (another German controlled paper) to carry the Flemish version of The Shooting Star might be construed as opportunistic, especially as the war seemed to be coming to an end.

Hergé replied that he was keen to use the situation to his advantage, and grow the readership for his product, as he anticipated an increase in competition from America as and when hostilities ceased. He goes on to say that, as he is already considered a traitor for his collaboration (his word) with Le Soir, he may as well have his strips published in Het Laatste Nieuws and Algemeen Nieuws (another "stolen" paper, which published Quick & Flupke), as they can only shoot or hang him once, and not re-shoot and re-re-shoot him for each charge.

Hergé did not speak out against the occupation, nor did he participate (as far as can be told) in acts of resistance against the occupiers - these were held against him as mistakes in his conduct after the war.

Peeters also relates the story of the "phony" Le Soir, a propaganda coup for the Resistance, who produced and distributed some 50,000 copies of a fake edition of the "stolen" paper, denouncing the "enslaved" press; ironically, although Hergé had apparently no part in it, Jacques Van Melkebeke does seem to have had a hand in it, yet in the subsequent post-war investigation into collaboration, Hergé was able to re-enter regular society with the help of Raymond Leblanc, while Van Melkebeke was found wanting thanks to his work on Le Soir Jeunesse, and unable to take up the editorship of Tintin magazine as a result.
So I do think "mistakes", plural, can be laid at Hergé's door, without much doubt.
#7 · Posted: 5 Nov 2018 20:40
Thank you for confirming what I was supposing to be the theory behind the so called 'mistakes'.
It's all a question of perception. The collaborator accusation, for which he was never accused officially, was repeated so many times that no one dares to speak out against it, on fear of being labelled as a fascist.
Nevertheless there's a simpler explanation, if one opens its mind to other realities. Hergé was neither a Nazi nor a fascist sympathizer nor did he welcome the invader, that we know and have no doubts. When the occupant came he fled along with the others only returning on his Kings, on whom he was very keen, demand. The same King ordered his people to remain calm and resume their occupations. Printing Tintin's adventures rather than a 'mistake' should be seen as an act of resistance, of keeping the Belgian soul alive. We know, because there are testimonies to that effect, that reading Tintin was for some a beacon of hope and joy during the occupation period.
I find very difficult to label someone as a collaborator, or even as a 'mistaker', someone who, in spite of a several years period of occupation, that all thought could last forever, did not utter a word or printed a line on the occupants behalf. And it would have been so easy.
#8 · Posted: 6 Nov 2018 10:03
It's all a question of perception.

Of course it is - however in this case, I think that the contemporary correspondence between Lesne and Hergé himself is telling - it is they who are discussing collaboration.

Your position is tenable, and adheres closely to the narrative prepared by Hergé after the war; however, it doesn't address his profiting by the work he carried out under the Occupation, his failure to speak out and denounce the Occupiers (the flip side of your "he didn't speak up for the Occupiers" argument), and his apparent lack of public support for Van Melkebeke.

These may not be crimes, but they certainly can be construed as "mistakes" in my opinion.
#9 · Posted: 8 Nov 2018 01:18
1 - "it doesn't address his profiting by the work he carried out under the Occupation,"
You mean he should have published Tintin for free? Or not publish at all and that he should have starved during the war period? Surely you're not comparing publishing Tintin to black-marketing or gun smuggling. He was an author. Should every other Belgian have stopped their professions or did they also not profit? Did the bakers nor bake? The servants not serve? Did the Belgian nation not continued to function in a country under German rule? So what's the big fuss about some drawings?
The Lesne – Remy correspondence you refer means that they weren't deaf. At the end of the German period they heard what was said. But read carefully, did don't admit to be collaborators nor even sympathizers, do they? They don't speak ill of the liberation do they. So, why are we only shedding light into some details and refusing to see the big picture?
2 - "his failure to speak out and denounce the Occupiers."
So he should have been a martyr for the resistance? Because to openly denounce the occupiers would mean to be imprisoned or shot. Would that have been a wise decision? Did all other Belgians do so?
3 - "apparent lack of public support for Van Melkebeke."
Yes but what would have happened should he have done so? Would it not be public suicide? And who would privately support that dear friend of his, as he did (look it up), had he stood up to the lynching mob?
So, I ask again, why are those attitudes mistakes?
#10 · Posted: 8 Nov 2018 10:45 · Edited by: jock123
So, I ask again, why are those attitudes mistakes?

Asking and asking again, but not actually saying.

I was starting to answer your barrage of questions, but really, I just don't have time.
You make about two brief statements of your position, but most of your "argument" is simply a list of twenty questions, and frankly that isn't a discussion or a debate.

I could do the same to you, but I'd rather try and explain myself than just simply interrogate you, giving nothing in return

You disagree with the notion that anyone can question Hergé's actions during the war - fine, you are not open to discussing the matter, and nobody is going to change your mind. However it would be more useful if you made statements to support your argument, than simply repeatedly questioning others - that's just taking without giving.

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