Monday, December 17, 2007

Tintin thrives in the Arab world despite censorship

"Neither censors nor 'Orientalist' stereotypes have dampened demand for the cartoon adventures of Belgian boy reporter Tintin, who has stoked the imagination of generations of Arabs from the Atlantic to the Gulf.

"Created in the middle years of the 20th century, Tintin spent more time in the Arab world than anywhere else, in four books: 'Cigars of the Pharaoh,' 'The Crab with the Golden Claws,' 'Land of Black Gold' and 'The Red Sea Sharks.'

'It's extraordinary that Tintin came here so many times and still has so many friends,' according to Tunisian academic Issam Marzouki.

Opium smuggling, the scramble for Middle Eastern oil, the slave trade and more were all sources of adventure and -- to this day -- controversial storylines for Tintin's Belgian creator, the illustrator Herge. [...]

"But the end of the relationship a year ago between Belgian publishing giant Casterman and Egyptian publisher Dar al-Maaref, which had the right to print Tintin in Arabic for 30 years, means the daring reporter with the trademark quiff is no longer available in Arabic. [...]

Dar al-Maaref declined to comment on the end of the relationship.

Nevertheless, in this centenary year of Herge's birth, the Arab world still reads Tintin in English and French, apparently ignoring the charges of racism and colonialism levelled at the books in Europe and Africa.

"Cliches and stereotypes, sure, but nothing harmful, and Herge refined his view of the Arabs throughout the series... as well as his use of written and spoken Arabic," said Marzouki. "But the adventure is the most important thing."

Source: AFP, December 17, 2007