As much of the comics world heads to Angouleme we are here in New York holding down the fort, bringing you Cynthia Rose on Chloé Cruchaudet’s Mauvais Genre.
The cover of Chloé Cruchaudet’s Mauvais Genre (“Trashy Types”) from Delcourt makes you think it’s a story about stylish lesbians. Yet the French bestseller – which won both the critics’ Prix ABCD and last year’s Angloulême’s Prix du Public – takes place during and just after World War I. The couple on its cover are in fact working-class Parisians, Louise Landy and Paul Grappe, whose strange story is actually true.
Married to Louise on the eve of World War I, Paul was a draftee who deserted the ranks. He spent ten years hiding in plain sight – by living with Louise as a woman called “Suzanne Landgard”. Less constrained than freed by his female identity, Paul took to cruising after dark in the Bois de Boulogne. (Eventually he also pimped his wife to other park habitués). In 1925, when the French offered deserters an amnesty, “Suzanne” dumped the dresses and returned to a life as Paul.
Ah, a new comic from Kevin Huizenga is always cause for happiness.
John Hodgeman name checks Jeet Heer in this Twitter-essay on “political correctness”, inspired in part by various reactions to Charlie Hebdo.
A documentary about the National Lampoon magazine which shares the titles of, if it’s not based on, Rick Meyerowitz’s excellent book, Drunk, Stone, Brilliant, Dead, is headed to theaters. I really wish someone would put together an anthology of the best Lampoon comics. There is so much rich material there.
And finally, there’s this fascinating press release from the Portuguese publisher Marco Farrajota about a new edition of TinTin in the Congo, with a distinct twist, debuting at Angouleme. I’m posting the press release verbatim because it’s fascinating theory and history, not to mention the commentary on Herge, which is not especially new but still somehow fresh. Also, the subject matter brings me back to one of the very best graphic novels of the decade, Arsene Schrauwen. Also, I’m just fucking relieved and heartened that a group of people was courageous and dedicated enough to do this and then write the below. Not much of that full throated activity going around North America these days. Anyone with more info (like, who is “the artist”) or better yet, an actual copy of the book, please drop me a line: dan (at) tcj (dot) com. I also wonder if this is related to the all-cats version of Maus that appeared at Angouleme a few years back. Anyhow, here it is:
Tintin Akei Kongo (2015)
Tintin au Congo (1931) is the second volume of the famous comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. It was commissioned by the conservative Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle and tells the story of young Belgian reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy, who are sent to the Belgian Congo to report on events in the country. Although it came to be a commercial success and became a defining work of the Franco-Belgian comics tradition, it came under harsh criticism for its perceived racist colonial attitude to the Congolese, portraying them as backwards, lazy and in need of European mastery. Although Hergé might not have been more racist than the average Belgian, his main charge was to persistently align his views with the lowest common denominator without never questioning racial consensus and colonialist politics that were overtly criticized by other contemporary French artists and intellectuals.
Tintin Akei Kongo is the translated version of Tintin au Congo in lingala, the official Congolese dialect. The translation was commissioned by the artist and has been conducted in a collaboration with a certified translator during a prolonged art residency in the island of Ukerewe in Tanzania. This translation belongs in the lineage of similar rip-offs, such as Katz, Noirs or Riki Fermier, books presumably made by Ilan Manouach. The artist, well aware of the material properties of the original edition, replete with its own signifying potential, made explicit his faith in the societal forms of this commodity: the new book is an exact facsimile of the original edition and follows the industrial standards and layout of classical comics. The goal of this endeavour was not simply to construe the artist’s tasks through a redefinition of the possible interventions, by commissioning a translation himself; neither to emphasize the importance of discursivity and self-referentiality as a way to address comics both as a language and a form of logic.
The goal is neither to fill a historical error by making accessible this work in the language of the mainly interested, the oppressed, the insulted. One should never forget the implicit consensus that stands behind the choice of languages for translated works. Isn’t it surprising after all, that “post- colonial” Africa is still using French and English as official languages, for education, legislation, justice and administration? Tintin au Congo reflects the opinions of Belgian bourgeoisie of the 30s. This conception of Congolese people, niggers like big children, is a part of the History of Congo in the same way as The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, are part, as a popular false anti-Semitic propaganda, of the History of Jews. Tintin au Congo should have been translated in Lingala.
National identity is not only built by an internal crystallization process, a constant consolidation of the national and cultural feeling, but is mainly defined by external pressures. Tintin au Congo, the original version in french language, is still, disturbingly, one of the most popular comic books in Francophone Africa. The fact that it hasn’t found its way to the African market with a Congolese edition, reminds the reader of Tintin Akei Kongo that distribution of cultural products is not solely governed by profit and market values. Adding lingala to the 112 different translations of the Tintin Empire, Tintin Akei Kongo reveals blind spots in the expansion of the publishing conglomerates.
Tintin Akei Kongo will be presented during the International Comics Festival of Angoulême.