The 1932 Belgian comic Tintin in America has run into trouble in Winnipeg, Canada, this past week, first when it was temporarily pulled from the sales floor of a Chapters bookstore and then when it was removed from the city’s library system, perhaps never to return. Some First Nations activists say the book should not be sold because it contains offensive stereotypes and misinformation about Native Americans.
Last weekend the book by Georges Rémi, better known as Hergé, was removed from one Chapters location after management received several complaints about it. But by Monday, the retail chain’s management determined that the Tintin volume did not meet any of its criteria for removal: “child pornography; material with instructions on how to build weapons of mass destruction; and ‘anything written with the sole intent of inciting society toward the annihilation of one group.’”
The book was back on sale at the Chapters location last Monday, but the press coverage apparently prompted Winnipeg city leaders to look into whether it was also in the public library collection. As it turned out both Tintin in America and Tintin in the Congo, another frequent target of complaints, had been moved in 2006 to a special collection for historical research in children’s literature, but that collection was disbanded in 2013 and the America volume found its way back to regular shelves. A city spokesperson said it has been removed pending a review.
Franklin Carter of the Book and Periodical Council, the main organization defending free expression in Canada, said of the possible library ban that “education, not censorship, is the key to social progress.” Likewise, Hergé’s biographer Benoît Peeters said in an interview with Le Figaro that the increasing pressure to sanitize historical literature worries him because “amnesia does not permit [us] to understand the evolution of mentalities.”
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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.