Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Tintin in retirement

Plenty has been written about the central place in Hergé's life and oeuvre of Tintin in Tibet (1960) - a biography due out in October promises a special focus on the story. The perfect Tintin album, however, must be Tibet's immediate successor: The Castafiore Emerald (1963).

Tintin in Tibet came at a time when Hergé suffered from eczema and insomnia - his dreams were dominated by eerie white spaces he transferred into the book. Hergé's marriage was collapsing and a Jungian psychologist advised him to stop drawing his hero - instead he created one of his most powerful books, revisiting one of Tintin's (and Hergé's) oldest friends, Tchang.

Penned 32 years after the boy reporter's first appearance, The Castafiore Emerald (pictured) is no less personal: Hergé wanted to stay home with his new, second, wife, and restricted his hero to Marlinspike Hall - there was to be no running around the world for this adventure. But the author's cartoon alter ego Captain Haddock has no peace: he is confined to a wheelchair after tripping on a broken step, has to tolerate a visit from the formidable Bianca Castafiore and still the stair is not fixed (by a character named in the French after a real builder with whom Hergé had problems, M Boullu).

Hergé's line is the purest of any of the books, as Tintin and co attempt to recover one of the diva's missing jewels amid a stream of red herrings. In his book Tintin: Hergé and his Creation, Harry Thompson quotes the writer saying: 'My ambition was to try and tell a tale in which absolutely nothing happened, simply to see whether I was capable of keeping the reader's attention to the end.'

In the final two (completed) books - Flight 714 (1968) and Tintin and the Picaros (1976) - Hergé reintroduces several old characters, including General Alcazar, Colonel Sponz, Rastapopoulos, Captain Allan and Piotr Skut, but all the favourites are reunited for The Castafiore Emerald: Professor Calculus, the Thompsons and Castafiore herself. The premature idyll heaps further irritations on Captain Haddock, however - pursued by paparazzi, bitten by a parrot (twice) and stung by a bee. Though Hergé took his time to produce the final albums, it was time for Tintin to travel once more.

No comments:

Post a Comment