Tintin in Brussels
dinsdag 25 oktober 2011 07:58

On Saturday Steven Spielberg came to Brussels for the world première of his new movie ‘Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn’. I grew up with Tintin, i.e. with the weekly magazine my father bought every Tuesday for my sister and me. For himself he bought Télé7Jours and or my mother Femmes d’Aujourd’hui. We got the only publication in Flemish in the house and Tintin was Kuifje, the Flemish name of the character, referring to his haircut. A ‘kuif’ is a forelock according to my dictionary.

The Kuifje/Tintin magazine was a collection of stories published in serial form, presented by Tintin/Kuifje for readers in the age group 7 to 77. When the stories reached their ending they were published as albums that we did not buy because we had already read the story. Sometimes I made an album myself of a story I particularly liked.

I still have the Kuifje/Tintin magazines, stuffed in boxes in the attic.

The stories were friendly and the environment recognizable. No sex, no violence. Mystery, suspense, heroism, humor  were the ingredients with heroes such as the car races Michel Vaillant, the detective Rik Ringers (Rick Hochet in French), the unmarried couple Ton and Tinneke and many others. Complete stories of 6 or 8 pages on historical events too and articles on nature, birds, mushrooms in the autumn . I firmly believe that my later interest in history, biology and literature was mainly fed by the weekly reading of Kuifje.

The publisher stopped the magazine long ago. The number of readers/buyers had seriously declined. Young people are no longer interested in reading stories on paper. 80% of the 12-year old have a mobile phone, I read in the newspaper. Or was it 90%?

The critics are very positive about the movie and I do not doubt there judgment but I will not go to the cinema. Not because I feel too old but because I am afraid I will miss something. Hergé was not only a great drawing artist but he also played with the language, his language, Brussels slang. You find it in the names of his characters and the expressions they use. Brussels slang is a mixture of French and Flemish dialect, no need to translate it in French or Flemish, impossible to transcribe it in English. I felt connected not only because of the streets and buildings I recognized but especially because they spoke my language, the language I spoke at home and with my friends. In school, we learned the proper language: Dutch and French.

‘Tintin is back in Brussels’ I read on a banner at the Place de Brouckère where the film was launched on Saturday. Wrong of course. He has always been in Brussels but now he left for Hollywood and Spielberg took the train to Paris on Saturday evening.

In his place, we saw the European decision makers arrive for another European Summit to decide once again what they will do for the survival of the Euro, the banks and Greece.

In Luxemburg, a financial journalist attending a presentation by a private bank, said to me that the media have a great responsibility in the present crisis. “They exaggerate in bad news,” he said, “and everybody loses confidence.”

Maybe we need Tintin/Kuifje to put things straight again. With humor, Brussels humor.