Hergé, Tintin in the Congo

Tintin in the Congo (Tintin, #2)Tintin in the Congo by Hergé

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had no immediate plans to read this, but when I saw it in a library while looking for something else, I thought I should check it out. My general impressions of Tintin, based on the three albums subsequent to this one, can be found here. As other reviewers have argued, this notorious book lacks the complexity and interest to be found in the later material. Hergé’s anthropology in the other albums may be imperialist, but it is not nearly so simplistic, malicious, and self-congratulatory as it is in this text. The malice and arrogance renders the elementary deconstruction I undertook in my first Tintin review—to the effect that the comic’s flattening form, by calling attention to itself, works against the imperialist content—will not really work for Tintin in the Congo, which is simply and straightforwardly racist.

As for the recent controversy in Belgium over whether or not this book should be banned—perhaps I am the kind of simple-mindedly old-fashioned civil libertarian, of the type considered here in America dangerously radical during the Bush administration and sadly reactionary during the Obama administration, but I have no trouble holding these two thoughts in my mind: no government has any business banning any book; and this book has no business being placed, by booksellers or librarians or teachers or parents, within easy reach of children. (To put that in the language of the Times article: yes, the book is racist; no, it should not be banned by the state.)

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