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BW Businessworld

A Life Sans Adventures

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How many of us know that the real name of Hergé, Tintin’s creator, was Georges Remi? That he was once a cub reporter, a profession around which he centred the life of his globe-trotting hero? Although Tintin comics have sold in millions in dozens of languages, Hergé remains a mystery even today.


Pierre Assouline steps into this gap with consummate ease. An experienced journalist and filmmaker, Assouline is the author of other acclaimed biographies, including those on photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and detective novelist Georges Simenon, another French legend. Hergé: The Man Who Created Tintin (Oxford University Press), originally written in French, also owes its pedigree to the impeccable translation by Charles Ruas. 


But if we are looking for a charming man behind the lovable comic, we look in vain. Like all good biographies, this book does not flinch from examining the “sacred monster” of “a life in grey” — the unremarkable colour that also dominated Hergé’s childhood. This is, by turns, surprising and saddening as we instinctively expect the creator’s truth to mirror that of his fiction. In reality, Hergé was an inward-looking adolescent who got below-average grades in drawing, but scribbled illustrations on every spare scrap of paper he could find. Assouline is a good raconteur who has the ability to examine even the most apparently ordinary events as the little parts that went into the making of a complex whole.


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(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 25-01-2010)