I have met Frank Gardiner, and was as shocked by his shooting as I was impressed and moved by how he has fought on as a journalist, now in a wheel chair. His race after the story of Tintin last night was very interesting, though perhaps it lacked a little humour. But Gardiner is a serious journalist, he says inspired to the cause by the books themselves, and it is certainly true that Tintin is the straight man to all the other action. So following the first book, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, still banned in Russia, was a worthy journey. It was fascinating to see how Herge used real life, up to the minute press stories, and how his own politics was influenced by exposing the evils of the Bolsheviks. He was engaged with his time, on a world scale, and that itself may have justified a young man’s initial silence about the Nazis, in a country under occupation. Remember they tried to suggest PG Woodhouse had facist tendencies too.
But the best bit was learning about that man-woman team who championed the cause and became Tintin’s original translators. Every culture makes great works their own, and of course to us the Tintin books were identifiably British, thus easy to relate to, though with more than a hint of the exotic too. Marlinspike Hall locates it in a British world, though modelled on a French Chateau, but of course that was thanks to translations of characters like Professor Turnasol into Calculus, and Dupont and Dupond into Thomson and Thompson. Above all though in those oddly Belgian books comes Tintin’s great friend and cypher, beyond Snowy, Captain Haddock. The old sea dog’s Red Rackham’s Treasury of colourful swear words were summoned from their imaginations and we owe them a very great debt, by blue blistering barnacles!