Best 1954 Adventures (5)
September 7, 2019
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1954 adventure novels.
Hergé’s Tintin adventure L’Affaire Tournesol (The Calculus Affair, 1954–56; as an album, 1956).
Glass and porcelain items at Marlinspike Hall begin to shatter inexplicably; the next day, Professor Calculus leaves for Geneva to attend a scientific conference. Tintin and Haddock follow him there, only to be run off the road into Lake Geneva… then nearly blown up! We discover that intelligence agents from Syldavia and Borduria — the fictional Balkan nations we’ve already visited in King Ottokar’s Sceptre and Destination Moon — are seeking to obtain an ultrasonic device, capable of being used as a weapon of mass destruction, which Calculus has recently developed. This is espionage thriller along the lines of Ambler’s The Dark Frontier or Cause for Alarm, say, or — closer to home — Edgar P. Jacobs’s Blake and Mortimer comic Le Secret de l’Espadon (1946–1949), and it’s a fun ride. Tintin and Haddock remain one step behind as Calculus is kidnapped by first Bordurians, then Slydavians, then Bordurians again; when they arrive in Borduria’s capital, Szohôd, they’re monitored by Colonel Sponsz’s secret police. Meanwhile, back in Marlinspike, for comic relief, insurance agent Jolyon Wagg and his family move in for a holiday. Will Tintin and Haddock rescue Calculus, and get him home?
Fun facts: The 18th Tintin adventure was serialized in Belgium’s Tintin magazine. Hergé’s depiction of Borduria was based on Eastern Bloc countries; Hergé named the country’s leader Plekszy-Gladz, a pun on Plexiglas, although the comic’s English translators renamed him Kûrvi-Tasch, a mustache joke.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.