Tintin and the Secret of Literature

Tintin and the Secret of Literature

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 1582434050

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Arguing that the Tintin books' characters are as strong and their plots as complex as any dreamed up by the great novelists, Tom McCarthy asks a simple question: Is Tintin literature? Taking a cue from Tintin himself — who spends much of his time tracking down illicit radio signals, entering crypts, and decoding puzzles — McCarthy suggests that we too need to “tune in” and decode if we want to capture what's going on in Hergé's extraordinarily popular work. What emerges from McCarthy's examination of Tintin is a remarkable story of illegitimacy and deceit, in both Hergé's work and his own family history. McCarthy's irresistibly clever, tightly constructed book shows how the themes Tintin generates — expulsion from home, violation of the sacred, the host-guest relationship turned sour, and anxieties around questions of forgery and fakes — are the same that have fueled and troubled writers from the classical era to the present day.

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façade by accident: it can only signal royal filiation. Its presence must mean either that the château was initially intended for Louis’s official heir (and given tacitly to his unofficial one) or that Sir Francis, denied his birthright, has carved it in mute protest. Either way, as Tisseron points out in a second book he wrote on this subject, his 1993 Tintin et le Secret d’Hergé (Tintin and the Secret of Hergé), ‘the “treasure” hidden in the foundations of his “house” is nothing other than the

have ‘invited’ to their country, just as it is fraught in The Blue Lotus in the international concession in Shanghai, whose chief of police has constantly to negotiate terms with the occupying army that surrounds him – embassies and concessions being official footholds of the guest in a host nation. It is even fraught in the Syldavian restaurant in (not quite) Brussels in King Ottokar’s Sceptre, where Tintin, the guest of guests, is handed a ‘proverb’ telling him to keep his nose out of others’

position as his mother in the sexual scene; and so on. The real breakthrough comes when, telling Freud about a dream in which he is torturing a yellow-striped wasp, Sergei mistakenly pronounces the German word for wasp, Wespe, as Espe, thus pronouncing his own initials, SP. This little slip of the tongue acts as a kind of Rosetta Stone for Freud, allowing him to understand the whole tangled web of mental associations. Armed with this codex, he reveals that at the heart of Sergei’s neurosis lies a

words which they describe as ‘crackling’. Behind these crackling words, they say, are buried ‘source-words’ or ‘archaeonyms’ which broadcast on illicit mental frequencies. Abraham and Torok tune into these, and are led from ‘six’, the number of wolves in the dream, to shiest (‘six’ in Russian) and on to siestra and siestorka, a group of six, and thence, picking up some interference from the German Schwester, to the English ‘sister’ – a world of ‘locutions’ that ‘signal pleasure and allude to the

economic collapse. It is what he encounters in the Castle of Ben Mor: mass-replication of imitation money that threatens economy itself. For Plato, the issue of the simulacrum lies at the heart of the question of ‘Art’, and makes it a deeply problematic category. In a sense, this is what Hergé’s work was always about too. This is the anxiety working its way to the surface in his many revisitings of the theme of simulacra, detouring through other contexts until it emerges properly. If the forgers

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