BOOK REVIEW / A quiff of sex: Tintin in the new world - by Frederic Tuten, Marion Boyars pounds 14.99

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The Independent Culture
'TINTIN slowly disrobes, leaving on, however, his blue boxer shorts.' But the shorts don't stay up: nothing is sacred. Worse, Herge actually gave permission for Frederic Tuten to ravish his perpetual boy into adulthood. Tintin, who at the beginning of the novel is glimpsed lolling bored and two-dimensional at Marlinspike, still teetotal and fiercely virtuous, is dispatched by his creator to encounter lust, love, loss and his own dark potentialities, apparently in Macchu Picchu, actually in the hitherto unexplored land of solid prose. In which country he encounters four characters from Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, as heavyweight a crew as any he's ever had to deal with in his cartoon strips. It is one of them, Clavdia Chauchat, who 'slowly draws down Tintin's boxer shorts, leaving them heaped about his ankles'.

There is something declamatory and operatic about the Tintin cartoons: Tuten makes use of this to produce a prose not dissimilar to the melodic cadences of Thomas Mann, healthily corroded at first, like Mann's own work, with irony.

Having been bedded by the seductive Clavdia, Tintin dreams a life-history for them, a happy ending and the disillusion that must follow. Waking, the now adolescent boy learns about class war, crime, pollution and the problems of the Third World. He is psychoanalysed in rather crude Freudian terms by Clavdia's long-term lover, the entrepreneurial Peeperkorn, and then acts out the patricidal motive Peeperkorn attributes to him by pushing him over a cliff.

Next comes the ingestion of three magic mushrooms, after which Tintin becomes the saviour of the South American Indian people. Parting even from Haddock and Snowy, he plunges into a mythic world where he converses with animals, heals the sick, and unites the tribes of the continent in a great gathering where he teaches them the value of the rainforest. Then he disappears into the Amazon, and becomes one with Creation.

Entertaining and clever as the book is, it doesn't travel as far from cartoon territory as it claims. Clavdia is a boy's fantasy of a woman, a stereotypical Eternal Feminine composed of mystery and sex appeal; while Tintin himself remains - as always - a superior white hero heading to the rescue, and most of his insights are truisms. Still, it was fun to do it - once.

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