The Indian fondness for Asterix remained a mystery to me for years, until Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge revealed in an interview that they had chosen to weave a certain kind of public school English into their translations of Asterix from French to English. This generation of English-speaking Indians prefers a more robust, home-grown flavour to the language, but a previous generation had different and distinct preferences—we liked our English birthed by the BBC, consecrated by Kipling and baptized with a sprinkling of P G Wodehouse and Frank Richards. The richness of the puns in Asterix—especially with the names of characters, from Tragicomix—the dashing, handsome, ever-so-slightly ridiculous husband of Panacea; the Latin-English quips and the catchphrases (“These Romans are crazy”) draws from this tradition, and it’s a dying one.
Over the years, Asterix has had its share of controversy. Uderzo & Goscinny were gleeful in their perpetuation of racist stereotypes—the English had bad teeth and liked their food boiled with mint sauce, the Spanish are hot-blooded and tempestuous, the Germans are humourless and martial. As the series wore on, the exuberance of some of the best comics gave way to a more formulaic approach, especially after the death of Goscinny. (via Nilanjana)
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Remembrance of things past
Despite its supposedly racist overtones, I liked Asterix comics. While Sesame Street (which I am sure my children will remember as fondly as I remember Asterix - or would they go the Manga way) turned 40 years old today, Asterix comics turns 50.