Hit & Run: It’s the ‘big L’ for Asterix

A map of France is cracked by a Roman standard driven into the ground. To one side a magnifying glass focuses on a “Gaulish village” surrounded by four Roman outposts: Aquarium, Totorum, Laudanum and Compendium. Who would have thought – given such adverse circumstances – that one of that village’s most famous denizens, namely, Asterix the Gaul, would live to reach the grand old age of 50?

But on 29 October, the tiny settlement’s shrewd, miniature protector – along with Obelix, his menhir-sized mate, and various neighbours – will celebrate their half century. To mark the occasion, the books’ publisher, Orion, is organising an exhibition showcasing some of the original Asterix artwork at the only surviving Gallo-Roman monument in the whole of France (in Bourgogne – looking at the map at the beginning of an Asterix book, that’s almost in Lutetia territory, or Luxembourg). Also celebrating the birthday is a new book of short stories, Asterix and Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book, published next Thursday.

Asterix began life in 1959 as a serial in the French comics periodical Pilote. The comics were written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, by that stage a veteran comic-writing partnership of seven years. When Goscinny died in 1977, Uderzo continued to write the books himself – and we’re very glad he did. His inventive, bacchanalian characterisations of gluttonous Romans and their wily opposition has managed to wow successive generations of school children (and their potion-swilling ways inspiring at least one Disney cartoon, Gummi Bears).

My own introduction to Asterix came in the late 1980s. Asterix gradually seeped, rather than crashed into my consciousness. There was always one or two of Goscinny and Uderzo’s books – Asterix and the Normans, Asterix and the Big Fight, Asterix and the Cultural Stereotype (maybe not the last one) – knocking around the school library. With the annuals’ healthy length and quirky one-liners – despite some parts being lost in translation – they were always an unusual, if fun choice. You could almost split the class into two halves, those who liked the unrelenting slapstick of Asterix, and those who liked the more intelligent, more formal plot structure of the Gaul’s Belgian competitor-with-a-quiff, Tintin.

The proof, however, is in the boar’s tripe. Asterix has now been translated into over 100 languages, sold 325 million copies of 33 books, spawned eight animated adventures and three live action films (how did Gérard Depardieu ever live his turn as Obelix down?). The unsung heroes, though, as far as British audiences are concerned, have to be Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge, who have translated the books into English. Without their work, there would be no “by the gods,” or “by toutatis”, just two of many catchphrases they have helped popularise. Altogether now: “These Romans are crazy!” Rob Sharp



Less film director, more remote controller

When an actor or director produces a mediocre performance, they’re often accused of having “phoned it in”. But prior to the release of the new, stop-motion animation adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, its director Wes Anderson admitted that he went one better: emailing his directions from 300km away. Anderson was present all the way through the pre-production process, recording the voice performances of his enviable cast, which includes George Clooney and Meryl Streep.

However, according to a profile in the LA Times this week, when principle photography began in London in early 2008, Anderson decamped to Paris for the duration. And his employees weren’t exactly overjoyed to discover that they’d have to email him digital clips of their work, after which he would respond with his thoughts and further instructions. In a rare example of Hollywood candor, Mark Gustafson, the film’s director of animation, said Anderson had “made our lives miserable.”

But while he may not have made his crew happy, Anderson’s film – which opens the London Film Festival tonight – has nonetheless been hailed as his best work for years. Hit & Run can think of a few other directors whose work might improve if they stayed away from the set altogether. Tim Walker



A purse that gives wallets a wallop

Brrrr. The chill wind of recession is still swirling through the streets and money seems to be slipping through the fingers more swiftly than ever. So now’s the perfect time to downsize from that huge wallet, with its acres of empty space where banknotes and store cards used to reside, to something with more appropriate dimensions. A coin purse, say. And look, here's just the thing – a ‘wristlet’ – it loops round your hand – from Balenciaga. With just enough space for a couple of quid and a packet of chewing gum, it's perfect for those with reduced circumstances. Perfect, that is, until we come to the price tag. Because this little pouch, this 18cm x 16cm sneeze of a coin carrier, costs £770. Now that’s enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. Rebecca Armstrong

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

European HR Director, London

£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit