A window on the past that must be closed
"I noticed they had dozens of Asterix books but only a handful of elderly, dog-eared Tintins. “Got any more Tintin books?” I asked the nice librarian. “Well,” she replied in a conspiratorial whisper. “I did try ordering some, but was told by my superior that I wasn’t allowed to.”
“Why not?” I queried. “Because they weren’t politically correct,” she replied. Just to be sure, I said to her: “So they actually used those words, ‘not politically correct’, did they?” “As far as I can remember, yes,” she said. Her hushed tone indicated that she was terrified of a colleague over-hearing and no doubt reporting her to the relevant authorities and getting her dismissed.
So I went home and looked out a collectors’ edition of the 1946 full-colour album version of Tintin in the Congo which I bought when it was published in English a few years ago but had never opened.
Now I’ve read the book and there’s no doubt the stereotyping is appalling to modern eyes. The crudely exaggerated physiognomy of the Africans in the illustrations, and the characterisation of natives of Congo as unintelligent and lazy – no author would get away with this kind of thing today, or would want to.
Tintin in the Congo all looks extremely old-fashioned. It could almost be depicting events on another planet. I suppose some of it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. But on the other hand what would be the point in banning it? It should be read with the proviso that it reflects old attitudes that have since changed. It’s of its time, a period piece. Many writers had a different notion of racial difference back then.
Part of the charm is the colourful illustration of exotic peoples and parts of the world which most of us are unlikely to have visited. They’re not to be taken as documentaries. They are, after all, only cartoons. And it’s miserable to ban them.
The past gives you perspective and shows you that present arrangements and ideas are not the only ones possible. But Leftists can't afford for people to know too much about history. What if people realized that Hitler was a socialist, for instance?