Review: Michael Farr On Tintin @ Cardiff Children's Literature Festival
After finishing up my time with the Cardiff Story as a volunteer, I was to go there for one last time for this lecture. It was upstairs in what should hopefully be the cafe, once the funding is all sorted. It's a lovely space with abstract splashes of paint on the windows of the entrance. It has been a small exhibition space for the two years Cardiff Story has been open. Yesterday (Monday 1st April 2013), they celebrated their second anniversary.
As I arrived, after having to wait for it to fill up with enough of the public, I waited outside eagerly. Inside the room was a mass of people, perhaps to big for the room itself. I shuffled over to a seat, which was arranged by the entrance; not the best view. I was sat next to two illustrators who were observing people faces and profiles; I had to have occasional glances at their drawings.
Plenty of children were there and I wondered how they were going to be good for this presentation. This was after all, the plug for a new translation of a Tintin adventure in Welsh, Y Glust Glec, or The Broken Ear, or even L'Oreille CassÃ©e in the original French. The translation is by Dafydd Jones.
Michael Farr was in fact HergÃ©'s biographer. Before he began, he pointed out he didn't speak 'the language of heaven' or Welsh as it prefers to be called. He had many wonderful and fascinating stories to tell about the man and his artistic endeavours. Many things were touched upon, his presentation slides going on for many more, had not the time scale been longer.
Tintin has now been translated into over 80 languages, with Chinese and Japanese coming into the frame. I assume that Welsh is late on the list as well. Many great Welsh twists have been incorporated into the canon, such as the much loved Thompson and Thompson. They aren't actually twins, as the surnames would suggest yet appear identical upon appearance. In the Welsh they have cleverly been called Parry Williams and William Parry.
Tintin was originally published on a Thursday. Why this day of the week? Because children were treated to a half-day at school, so they could enjoy The Adventures Of Tintin in supplement form. Farr pointed out that Tintin's famous quiff came from an automobile chase, which resulted in his hair flicking back. Captain Haddock, who is arguably the most loved character in the series, uses some fantastic vocabulary. Who doesn't know his famous catchphrase, "Blistering Barnacles"? His use of profanities that weren't quite so is also famous. HergÃ© would haunt the local markets in Brussels and listen to the sellers. He went wild with this and made any word practically a swear word, purely because of the context. How are you to respond if someone called you a, "Four-Power Pact"?
Farr was successful in keeping the children attentive. He turned to them on several occasions and made them feel part of the talk with question and much praise for the right answers. This is after all, a man who has seen the massive HergÃ© archive. He kept everything, even the smallest newspaper cut-out. It took five years to go through it all. The design for Tintin appears to have comes from his brother who looks a great deal like the boy hero, as we saw in photographs.
The man himself proved rather interesting. He had several breakdowns. One of his most cherished stories, Tintin In Tibet doesn't even feature a villain. He wrote this after a pretty awful breakdown and looked at things differently. Yet he always remained highly modern in art and fashion, dressing up like an English gentleman. He even asked Farr in the 70s if was he a fan of Pink Floyd.
The Swedish have even taken a dislike to having the dog named Snowy. They much prefer the original name of Milou. Many problems occur in translation. It can be a minefield of barriers and frustrations. But I'm sure it can have its delights of the academic kind. He even drew a great picture for Neil Armstrong for landing second on the moon after Tintin, who did so a few decades earlier. Farr has seen prints of it, but never the real thing. The reaction to Tintin has been mixed in the US. The CGI film a few years ago was a great success, though Farr pointed out there was too much action towards the end.
HergÃ© was a master for details. All drawings are highly accurate even in Egyptian hieroglyphs or Chinese characters. Experts have confirmed this and praise is giving to him for keeping this standard throughout his work. His passion for travel was proven when his widow, Fanny RÃ©mi only cancelled their National Geographic subscription in 2011. He died thirty years ago...
Tintin, with his near blank face could appeal to a wide market and has done so for nearly a century. Being a 90s kid, I experienced Tintin first in the animated version created in the early 90s. It was quite bland viewing now and makes me want to read the books. I'm also sad to say that I have never read any of the Tintin comics. A slap on the wrist for me...
But you're never to old to read Tintin.
If you're interested in reading, why not get involved with the Reading Power Book Club? The Reading Power Book Club is a new virtual book club for young people in Cardiff and involves Reading Power, Cardiff Libraries, Cardiff Council, TheSprout and you!
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- Children's Literature Festival
- Cardiff Film & Comic Con 2013
- Flick Flak: The Adventures of Tintin
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