August 14, 2009
Unlike Baudrillard, Deleuze, and Foucault, exact contemporaries of his who were merely inspired by pop culture, the French-born comics writer RENÉ GOSCINNY (1926-77) cranked the stuff out. Les Aventures d’Astérix, which he authored (and Albert Uderzo illustrated) from 1959-77, is the bestselling bande dessinée ever. It’s been asserted that Goscinny’s village of indomitable Gauls is a metaphor for French resistance to the Nazis; or that the villagers are paleoconservative Europeans thumbing their noses at American economic imperialism. Yet every child understands, at some level, that what Asterix actually depicts is a heterotopia in which fixed, universal categories and certainty (e.g., the Romans) will forever be stymied and sometimes K.O.’ed (“BIFF! BANG! TCHOC!”) by difference and anomaly — as represented by the recalcitrant, life-loving Gauls, which is to say the French and Belgians, and other Celtic types (the British cousin Anticlimax, the Spanish chief Huevos y Bacon) to whom we are introduced. Asterix is a wily trickster, Obelix a rotund peg who smashes his way free of every square hole. Over the course of 24 Goscinny-penned adventures, the duo turned the Enlightenment itself every which way but loose.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Wim Wenders |
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).
What do you think?
Hey! Don’t forget Lucky Luke! In one Lucky Luke episode he is said to roam the high plains of “Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Massachusetts.” (Goscinny lived in the US in the ’40s and not incidentally became friends with a bunch of future contributors to Mad.)
I was hoping you’d chime in, Luc! You know, I had a bit about how Goscinny shared a studio with the future Mad guys; and also a conceit about how Tarzan taught himself to read English but learned to speak French, while I learned to speak English but taught myself to read by poring over French editions of Asterix, Tintin, and Lucky Luke in the 1970s, when English language editions were scarce in America. But it was all too much to cram in there — particularly because, as editor of this series, I’m always cutting other writers’ items down to size. I thought it would be politic to keep my own as short as possible…
Also: Lucky Luke is terrific, but the humor is not particularly Asterix (or Mad)-esque.
Goscinny: too smart for the Hi smartie pants, too Lo (not Tintin!) for the poseur-intellectuals. Maybe the perfect Hilo. Good choice.
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