Wednesday 5 March 2014

Asterix and the Picts

(February 2014)

I adored Asterix when I was a kid, so reading this involved getting smashed in the face by nostalgia with the forced of a carelessly tossed menhir (or indeed caber). I am thus utterly incapable of offering anything even remotely resembling an impartial or considered view on the matter.

Tintin was all right, I guess. But compared to the gleeful anarchy of the indomitable Gauls, the Boy Detective always felt a little bloodless. Both series were very much of their time and place, of course; broad-brush stereotypical, sexist, and on more than the odd occasion flat-out racist, but as a kid you don’t care about this stuff (which is not to say that it doesn’t matter, of course – little things all add up – but I think adults often forget just how sophisticated kids can be about picking and choosing their influences) and the Asterix books by their very nature revolved around kicking against authority and the imposition of constraints from above. That’s a healthy message for any child to absorb, I think.

When I went back home last summer I found a few old, yellowing editions in my mum’s loft, and brought them back here largely in an overly nostalgic fit of parental optimism. Having now reminded myself exactly what these books are about at heart I’m extremely glad that I made that decision. My eldest turned three not so long ago and is about to start at nursery school so it won’t be too long until I’m able to share these with him as a much needed corrective to all that conformist bollocks that forms a part of any standardized education system, let alone Japan’s. If in doubt, punch a Roman and eat a boar, by Toutatis!

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