Posts Tagged New-fangled

Asterix? The gall!

In France, the comic book – or “la BD”, for ‘bande dessinée’ – is considered a proper art-form in its own right. Think Manga, but without the violence or inherent cultural barriers.

That said, la BD can be pretty extreme in its own right; take Lolo et Sucette, for example.

Anyway. I bloody love Asterix. The story of a small village of indomitable Gauls defying the onwards march of Caesar and his men, this series of books is about the only reason I know anything about the Roman Empire, the classification of its army’s ranks, and its numerals. Illustrated by Albert Uderzo and written by René Goscinny (until his death in 1977 when Uderzo took on both roles), it’s funny, cheery, and fundamentally optimistic stuff (they do say opposites attract).

My favourite example of the wit underpinning much of the series is the way that Asterix’s dog, Idéfix (or ‘fixed ideas’) in the original French books, is translated to become Dogmatix in English. I don’t know how much Goscinny or Uderzo were involved in the translations, and I don’t care. In either language, the linguistic brilliance shines through.

It also contains dozens of brilliant, playful stereotypes of different nationalities and we’re going to learn a little more about these stereotypes over what I suspect will evolve into a small handful of theme weeks.

A quick disclaimer – I don’t have one of them new-fangled scanning dohickeys so the following pictures are the result of using a good old-fashioned (ahem, digital…) camera, and as such aren’t always the best quality. The illustration and writing, however, always are.

A small taster. While not particularly addresing any national stereotypes (apart from the fundamental, ongoing ineptitude and cowardice of the Romans), I do like Obelix & Co., where Obelix becomes a business man. His untrustworthy mentor buries him in business jargon. When I first read this, probably around the age of 10, I thought this stuff was gibberish. Nowadays, sadly, I find it easily understandable, and on a very bad day may even slip into it myself.

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Tony time

We’ll need to manage the release of it. I call it ‘Release Management’.

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A book at bedtime (4)

Dracula The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt (2009)

Not that I’m a sucker for any old tat related to something I’m obsessed by, of course, but I was always going to buy this book. It being £1.99 helped. Jointly written by a direct descendent (a great-grandnephew) of Bram Stoker and a self-confessed “horror geek”, this is a perhaps surprisingly ambitious novel, rather than a money-for-old-rope attempt to cash in on the family name.
 
The authors’ stance is that of attempting to reconcile the many different threads in film, theatre, and literature that were spawned by the original novel (many of which were a result of a failure to enforce copyright in North America). At the same time they seek to be true to both Stoker’s intent and the context of historical real-world events in 15th century Romania.
 
As I say, surprisingly ambitious.
 
This results in a novel which paints a more ambiguous picture of Count Dracula than most other portrayals, setting out to ‘give him his say’, describing him as a “complex anti-hero”. It also merges fact and fiction, making Bram Stoker himself (and, of course, his most famous work) part of the story, also including real-life ye olde worlde people such as Sir Henry Irving, Frederick Abberline, and, in passing, Oscar Wilde. Abberline’s involvement is as a result of a plot device which intertwines the Jack The Ripper murders with the story of Dracula, the Harkers and co, and which sees both Dracula and Abraham Van Helsing fingered as suspects for the Ripper’s killings. Finally, the end of the novel includes the departure of the Titanic from Queenstown in Ireland.
 
Meanwhile, the idea of reconciling different takes on the original story sees Carfax (in the novel, a house in Purfleet purchased by the malevolent Count; in film, an abbey) combined with Whitby Abbey to give us ‘Carfax Abbey, in Whitby’. Similarly the asylum in which the lunatic Renfield is originally held is relocated, again from Purfleet to Whitby.

This blending of fiction, fact, and, um, fictionalised fact does require a fair amount of deliberate explanation to be made, in order to make the new events more plausible. The authors do this by telling us that Stoker senior wrote his original novel based on a tale told to him in the pub. Stoker, believing this tale to be the fanciful ranting of a drunk, then took liberties with what were actually (but of course) true events. This, we are told, led him to using incorrect dates for Dracula’s arrival in England via Whitby harbour – thus allowing our modern-day authors to re-set the original novel’s events in line with the Ripper murders, the Titanic, and so on.

I don’t know about you, but I’m becoming very confused by this.

Anyway, the book has its weaknesses. In addition to understandable criticism aimed at the above faffing about, there’s a surprising amount of sex and swearing (I’m no historian, but however common the word ‘bollocks’ was in the early 20th century, it simply seems incongruous), and one ‘twist’ in particular was screamingly obvious from the outset. That said, the complexities described above are executed very entertainingly, and even just a passing knowledge of one or more of the original novel and its subsequent adaptations will mean they become all the more fascinating. Similarly, the mixing of old fiction, fact, and new fiction makes for an interesting read. There is also an extensive afterword, penned by an academic who has the honorary title of ‘Baroness of the House of Dracula’, as well as lengthy notes from the authors – these suggest they are indeed genuine in their love of the story, and sincere in their attempts to create a ‘legitimate’ sequel.

Personally, I like it. I like it to death.

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On the streets I ran

Despite essentially being a way of getting people to download Google Chrome, The Wilderness Downtown is an entertaining idea well executed, and is nicely soundtracked by an Arcade Fire song. All you need to hand is a postcode and that there link up above.

For the record: DN4 6UQ. Feel free to share yours.

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