by Betsy Gomez
After a recent ruling by a Belgian court, Hergé’s controversial second book in the Tintin series, Tintin in the Congo, remains on shelves. The book faced charges that it broke several of Belgium’s laws against racism and incited racial hatred, but the court ruled that the book, which was serialized from 1930 to 1931 and collected in 1946 with significant revisions, was a product of its time and did not intend to incite racial hatred.
Tintin in the Congo was not translated into English until 1991, but it has faced significant backlash over its depiction of the Congolese and treatment of animals. Attempts have been made to ban it in the United Kingdom, where it is often sold with a warning about offensive content, and several other countries.
Hergé often expressed regret over the book. From a 2010 article in The Guardian:
Hergé redrew the book for a colour edition in the 1940s and made many changes, including excising a scene where Tintin killed a rhinoceros by blowing it up with dynamite. He also dropped all references to the “Belgian Congo”, and changed a geography lesson Tintin gave about Belgium to a maths lesson. Despite the changes, the book remains equally offensive to race equality and many animal rights campaigners.
Michael Farr, Hergé’s biographer, who spoke often with him about the book, says that the artist later regretted his depiction of the Congolese, but denied it was racist, merely reflecting the way Africa was portrayed in the 1930s.
The case faces further appeal in Belgium. For more on the decision, visit The Guardian here.