Though it’s been longer than I care to remember since I read the Tintin books, I recall that Red Rackham’s Treasure, by a narrow margin, was my favourite of these exquisitely rendered books. Until this week I had no intentions to reread Hergé’s comic-strip albums, but I spotted and read Tom McCarthy’s Tintin and the Secret of Literature. If McCarthy is on the right track there is so much more to explore within these stories than I was able to appreciate all those years ago. McCarthy suggests a continuity of autobiographical theme through the entire oeuvre.
Eulogising Hergé’s social comedy and his creation of ‘a [rich] bestiary of human types’ McCarthy asks of Tintin one question: is it literature?
Should we, when we read the Tintin, treat them with the reverence we would afford to Shakespeare, Dickens, Rabelais and so on? When we ponder and discuss them, should we bring the same critical apparatus to bear as we would when analysing Flaubert, James and Conrad?
McCarthy succinctly addresses the question: what is literature, and proceeds to bring his considerable critical apparatus to bear on Hergé’s series, through political, autobiographical and psychological readings. The book is entertaining and thought provoking, and will return me to Tintin.