Posted: 24 Jan 2005 17:25
I've had a look through Sadoul's "Tintin et Moi, entretiens avec HergÃ©", and I've come up with these sections referencing "Tintin in the Congo" and accusations of racism (translations by your's truly) :
Sadoul : "It's often said repeatedly that you are racist. It's time to put this to rest : what have you got to say in your defence ? How would you respond to accusations of racism ?"
HergÃ© : "I'd say that everyone is entitled to their opinions, even those that claim I am racist. But really, come on ! There was "Tintin in the Congo", I recognise that. It was in 1930. I only knew about this country from what people at the time said : "The blacks are big children ... It's lucky for them that we're there ! etc. ...". And I drew these Africans after these descriptions, in the purest paternalist spirit of the time that was prevalent in Belgium. Later, in "The Red Sea Sharks" - and even if the Africans speak pidgin English there - it seems to me that Tintin has surely shown his antiracism enough, hasn't he ? It's like with the gypsies in "The Castasfiore Emerald". The attitudes of Tintin and Captain Haddock are identical : they defend them against all prejudices. Only in "The Red Sea Sharks", by depicting blacks destined for slavery and Arab slave traders, I was accused again of racism, but against Arabs this time ! It never ends ! ... With "Congo", as with "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets", I was fed the prejudices of the middle class bourgeoisie in which I lived. Indeed, "Soviets" and "Congo" were sins of youth. I'm not disowning them. But if I were to do them again, I would do them differently, that's for sure ... And notice that already in "Tintin in America" I showed the "white power", the white financiers exploiting the Indians. For a "racist", I don't keep my sympathies hidden ! And my Chinese in "The Blue Lotus" ? Remember the humiliations that the white men made them suffer ? ... I'm not trying to excuse myself : I acknowledge that the books of my youth were typical of the bourgeois Belgian mentality of the time."
And later on, during the discussion of each book in the series ...
HergÃ© : "It [the African setting] didn't inspire me that much, but I gave way to arguments, and we're off to the Congo ! I did this story, I told you, in the outlook of the time, that's to say in a typically paternalist spirit ... which was, I assure you, prevalent in all of Belgium."
I've also found this extract from "HergÃ© & Tintin Reporters" (p67), from a letter in 1966 :
"I never spared anyone, not even the average European : the Thomson twins, Jolyon Wagg, Castafiore and a hundred others are average Europeans (the Milanese Nightingale must forgive me !). In reality there are individuals, types who form the substance of satire (albeit good natured) : the bore, the prima donna, the policeman, the adjutant, the dangerous military man, the financial gangster ... the race of these people has nothing to do with it."
Just thought those might be useful for the topic of discussion !