Belgium: "Tintin in the Congo" comes out with a preface that puts the book in its context of the time

A preface for the book Tintin in the Congo had already been mentioned in the past, but never materialized. A reissue of the comic strip Tintin in the Congo with, for the first time, a preface that puts the book in its context of the time and partially shows how this work by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé fits into an era of time favourable to colonisation.

The cover of the comic strip "Tintin in the Congo". AFP / Sebastien Pirlet

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With our correspondent in Brussels, Jean-Jacques Héry

Since the publication of Tintin in the Congo in 1931, the second part of the adventures of the reporter Tintin, the controversy has never died down, with many seeing it as an album with racist overtones and overtones, particularly in its representation of the black characters in the album, in a Congo that was at the time a Belgian colony. The album reissued in the <>st century is a special edition: it is the original version of the comic book, the one that appeared in black and white in the early thirties in the magazine Le Petit Vingtième and that the Moulinsart and Casterman editions decided to colorize and market.

Fifteen pages of preface

The album was only sold as a box set, accompanied by Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in America, both also in the original version and colorized. The book is therefore not the easiest to find and several booksellers in Brussels were not aware of the specificity of this reissue.

The preface is about fifteen pages long. It was written by Philippe Godin, a Belgian literary critic and Hergé specialist. In it, he describes the author as a "witness of his time", certainly open to criticism, but who only "relayed the colonialist prejudices that prevailed at the time. Hergé does not have a disparaging intention. He doesn't want to belittle people by caricaturing them. Obviously, there are stereotypes when it comes to drawing black people. This condescending "little negro" language that Hergé is reproached for, he did not invent it.


A sponge of its time?

Is Hergé just a sponge of his time? This recontextualization is "welcome. In any case, for Tintin in the Congo and perhaps also for Tintin in the land of the Soviets, which is still the reflection of a rather outdated era, more than for the others.


Some, such as the Frenchman Pascal Blanchard, who holds a doctorate in history from the University of Panthéon-Sorbonne and is a specialist in colonialism, are not convinced. He told AFP that he "welcomed" the initiative, but that he would have preferred a double preface, with, for example, the signature of a historian such as the Congolese Elikia M'Bokolo, a specialist in Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Read alsoBelgians pay tribute to the "Journal Tintin", a cult comic book magazine

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