His Jewish origins, his family murdered in Auschwitz, his professional failures before global successes: René Goscinny, screenwriter of Asterix, Lucky Luke and Petit Nicolas, finds himself at the center of a comic strip, an intimate portrait of which the main narrator is her daughter Anne.
In "The Goscinny's novel" (Grasset), the French author Catel Muller, aka Catel, also tells the life of Anne Goscinny as well as that of his illustrious father (1926-1977), who died suddenly during a stress test at her cardiologist when she was only 9 years old.
The story begins in the office of this Parisian cardiologist, where Anne goes to 18 years under another identity and threat, mimicking the wearing of a gun under his coat, the one she accuses of having "massacred her childhood" .
A few years later, this unique girl loses her mother as a result of a long illness, finding herself alone at the head of the "colossal inheritance" of one of the biggest names in comics, says Catel during a meeting with journalists in Brussels.
This poignant destiny and "just as, if not more romantic than that of the father" convinced the designer in 2014 to embark on a "double portrait" Goscinny ... By talking alternately Anne and Rene from one chapter to another.
The project takes five years to complete because the synthesis work is titanic. A thousand pages are needed to transcribe the innumerable interviews.
"Anne gave me absolute confidence, she gave me all the treasures, without asking anything in exchange," says Catel, known for her cartoon biographies of famous women (Olympe Gouges, Josephine Baker), in duet with screenwriter José-Louis Bocquet.
As a result, the 330 pages are filled with anecdotes about the world of post-war comics, while tackling the unknown and dramatic aspects of René Goscinny's life.
The Paris printing house of his mother's family, Jews who fled the pogroms of Ukraine in the early twentieth century, is seized by the Vichy regime. Two uncles and a cousin of 16 years are deported and die in Auschwitz in 1942.
- "Murder in the deepest" -
"My father did not speak on what was too painful or too intimate", but was "deeply Jewish, bruised deep down," Anne Goscinny tells in a chapter devoted to the war 39-45.
René, his older brother and his parents live at this time in Argentina, where his father Stanislas, born in a family of Polish Jews emigrated to France, works as a chemical engineer and deals in parallel with the establishment of Jewish settlements.
He died prematurely at the end of 1943. René was 17 years old. The teenager, who is passionate about drawing and blacks sketchbooks since entering college, will have to work to help his mother.
Assistant bookkeeper, cartoonist, interpreter in import-export: the odd jobs are linked, especially during his New York period (1945-50), without his drawings humor second degree seduce the publishers.
It's the time of the key meetings (the Belgians Joseph Gillain, called Jijé, and Morris, at the origin of Lucky Luke), but it takes time for Goscinny to switch to scriptwriting, the domain where his talent will eventually be recognized.
Whoever wanted above all "to laugh and make fun" was "really persevering in his quest," says Catel.
In 1951, the meeting in Paris with the designer Albert Uderzo, son of Italian emigrants, marks a turning point.
In duet, they practice first on several characters (the red-skin Oumpah-Pah, Jehan Pistolet) that pleases the Belgian press, before finding the idea of the small tribe of Gauls with their names all ending in "ix".
The chef is called "Asterix". This initial "A", laughs Goscinny in the book, provides "an undeniable advantage for the alphabetical rankings of future encyclopedias of comics".
In 1959, Asterix made his first appearance in the newspaper Pilote. Sixty years later, the counter displays 380 million albums sold worldwide in all languages.
© 2019 AFP