Monday, 30 October 2017

Le ‘Manitoba’ ne respond pas and L’Eruption du Karamako, by Hergé

Hergé wrote these two books, which together make up one adventure, about his other characters, Jo, Zette and Jocko. The story starts with masterful suspense as all the passengers and crew pass out on a transatlantic liner, on its way to America, waking up to find themselves lightened of any jewellery they had. At the same time Jo, Zette and Jocko get lost at sea in a fog, which starts a Jules Verne-esque adventure, on the sea, under the sea and over the sea, on a desert island, peopled by a primitive tribe, with appearances from mad scientists and other archetypes from contemporary fiction.

The artwork is, in my opinion, of a higher standard than the other books about these characters, which, at times seems lacking the detail of Hergé at his best. Some of the frames and illustrations in this book are among Hergé’s finest: the cover of L’Eruption du Karamako is wonderful, and seems to have been the inspiration for the cover of Tintin and the Picaros. Some of the storyline seems to reappear in the film Tintin and the Lake of Sharks, namely the scene in the underwater craft on the seabed.

It is a great shame that the books have never been translated into English, and I am assuming the reason is the way the tribe on the island were portrayed, which is similar to Tintin in the Congo (but no worse!) The editions I have are facsimile editions of the first edition published in 1952, and are exquisitely produced, with uncoated paper and board covers.

I think the time would be right to release them in English, as Tintin in the Congo has been. The sensitivity of the publisher is commendable but I think, if they are sold as interesting items from the Hergé archives, rather than books for children, I can’t see what harm it would do. I managed to find my way around them with my virtually non-existent French and some help from google translate, so don’t let the fact they are not in English deter you from buying them.

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