Sam Hind of THE SEMAPHORE LINE drew attention to this video and asked for a translation:

Here is my translation:

Laure Adler: First question for you Michel Serres, are you Tintin?

Serres: Am I Tintin? Oh no I am much too old! No, not at all…It’s true that in the albums of Tintin he has a face that is fairly round, and drawn rather sketchily so that everyone can think that they are Tintin. Perhaps you think that it’s me, I think that it’s you, and so on. We are all Tintin

Adler: He belongs to everybody?

Serres: He belongs to everybody, and that is why he is universal.

Adler: How old were you when you began to read Tintin?

Serres 7 years old, as usual, as it is written: from 7 to 77 years old.

Adler: so, you were a very good boy!

Serres: And I haven’t finished because I’m not yet 77.

Adler: You are not yet 77 [NB: Michel serres was born 1 September 1930]. But what struck you about it? Do you still remember your childhood feelings?

Serres: Absolutely, it was 2 or 3 years before World War 2, I think I am the oldest here, and it did not come out in albums but in weekly instalments, and I remember the horrible anguish I lived through from each Wednesday to the next when at the end of the last page Tintin was in danger, often in mortal danger. And I remember living through some very very bad weeks because of that. And then at the beginning of tne next week’s instalment he was always saved. Yes, I remember perfectly.

Adler: What did you like?

Ah The Treasure of the Arumbayas! [Note: this is now called The Broken Ear, it was serialised weekly from December 1935 to February 1937]. Is that it Pierre?

Adler: Ah yes, it was at the very beginning.

Pierre Sterckx: It’s The Broken Ear

Serres: It became The Broken Ear, but then it was called The Treasure of the Arumbayas.

Adler: What first pleased you about TINTIN, was it the character Tintin himself? Or was it the way it was drawn? the universe?

Serres: It was a world, that is you could be at ease anywhere, you were in South America, in Egypt, in the Middle East, in Asia, et cetera. It was a little like Jules Verne, but it was easier to understand, I came to Jules Verne later. And besides war broke out, and it was one of the rare opportunities for celebrating human fraternity when people were killing each other. And I remember Tintin as the haven of peace, a sort of island where you could breathe peace and fraternity

Adler: An island of boyscoutism?

Serres: An island of happiness, of happiness while people were busy killing each other. It was the isle of Utopia, it was Utopia during the war. My generation read TINTIN to defend itself against the outside world, during the period when we could read it, of course. It was Tintin that gladdened my youth. I was very grateful.

Adler:   Very grateful? because you had the impression of being in a territory of solidarity,   of generosity, of mutual aid,

Serres: And simply of fraternity

Adler: But life is not like that. So is Tintin an escape?

Serres: That depends on when you are alive. If you are alive between 1939 and 1945 it is good to have from time to time some isles of Utopia, to breathe. It was the only place you could breathe. It was the respiration of our childhood. I remember Tintin as the respiration of my youth.

Adler: While you were breathing in reading Tintin, he was collaborating, with a press that has been accused of being « collaborationist ».

Serres: You’re asking me that question again.

Adler: It must be asked, mustn’t it? Obviously, in front of a group of Tintinolaters I am very courageous to ask the question.

Serres: No, everybody asks it today, that’s not courage. When you always ask the same question there is a word for that in French, it’s called « inquisition ». Inquisition means always asking the same question. No, he did nothing very wrong.

Adler: He did nothing very wrong, he was not in trouble, but he did go on trial, Hergé.

Benoît Peeters: He didn’t really get put on trial, he was in trouble, like all the journalists who worked with the collaborationist press in Belgium. But what must be said is that you can analyse the war years, in the evening, but Hergé, as Michel Serres said, recounted stories that were pure escapism: The Unicorn’s Secret, Red Rackham’s Treasure, The Seven Crystal Balls. They were stories where he kept to the sidelines of current events. He avoided current events as much as he could. He constructed his little bubble, his little island, his little world. It’s true that retrospectively we can perhaps regret his commitment, he is not the only one, but it was not an active commitment.

Adler: He was a journalist in a newspaper that was published during the war.

Peeters: He was a novelist, a graphic novelist, and it was escapist literature. Granted, today you can judge it as you will, but it is true that there are very few regrettable drawings in Hergé’s work.

Serres: He saved a lot of young people. That escapist literature corresponded a little to escapist films of that period. You could continue to live thanks to the people who recounted those worlds. That’s my testimony; You are all almost too young to have… Pierre, you were there.

Pierre Sterckx: In the prison where they kept the resistants, we passed around the newspaper in the evening, because there was not all that much to read. And some resistants told Hergé’s family after the war that we read Tintin, the three or four little panels at the bottom of the page, we read them and that helped us bear up.

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  1. Sam Hind dit :

    Fantastic! Thank you so much. Fascinating to see Serres suggesting Tintin was a kind of utopian escape. The titles published during WWII were markedly different to any other, and can be read as fantasy stories. Critically, they were almost devoid entirely of ‘political’ content, perhaps why he believes they served as a ‘territory of generosity’ etc. for the likes of him.


  2. Ping : Serres on Tintin | The Semaphore Line


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