One of the funniest and most popular Asterix comic books tells how money and a few carefully chosen words can tear relatives and friends apart.
Albert Uderzo, 83, co-creator of the indomitable Gaul and his giant side-kick, is going through a real-life, but unfunny, remake of Astérix et La Zizanie (Literally, "Asterix and the Big Feud").
His only child, Sylvie Uderzo, 54, has started a legal action to have her parents declared mentally incapable of running their affairs. In the latest twist in a long family quarrel, she accused their advisers yesterday of "abusing" her father and mother's "weakness" and "pillaging" and "destroying an entire family".
Mr Uderzo responded by accusing his daughter and her husband of "legal harassment". In a statement issued by his lawyers, he accused them of "failing to accept" his decision to remove them from senior positions in his publishing company in 2007. "We are deeply saddened that our only daughter should display her ingratitude to her parents so publicly," he said. In the 15th Asterix book, the "zizanie" – a massive feud over money – is solved, as usual, through the use of a magic potion and a village feast. However, no magic potion, it seems, can cure this family's feud.
In an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien yesterday, Ms Uderzo said her father and mother had fallen under the influence of "fraudsters". She said her legal action was not just about money but to "prove" to her father that he had been abused so that "he is prepared to lay eyes on me once again". Ms Uderzo's legal action is, initially, against "X", or persons unknown. In her interview yesterday, she criticised, but did not name, her father's "plumber", who had "gradually become [his] most trusted adviser".
She accused the plumber of, among other things, persuading Mr Uderzo to carry out "pharaonic" works at his country home and buying an old Mirage fighter-bomber, which was "locked away in a hangar". Ms Uderzo also criticised a notary, whom she said had taken over her parents' business affairs. The notary was, said Ms Uderzo, accused of fraud in another case.
The comic exploits of the tiny Gaul and his gigantic friend Obelix have been translated into 107 languages and have sold 325 million copies worldwide. Mr Uderzo was initially the artist. His friend and partner, René Goscinny, wrote the stories and dialogues. Mr Uderzo created new books on his own after Mr Goscinny's death in 1977.
The family feud came to light in 2008 when Albert Uderzo sold his publishing company and his share of the Asterix rights to France's biggest publisher, Hachette. He also agreed – reversing a previous commitment – that other writers and artists could extend the Asterix series after his death.
In an open letter to Le Monde, his daughter accused him of "betraying" the spirit of Asterix by selling off a "symbol of France's cultural heritage" to a company "driven mostly by profit". Mr Uderzo responded that he had fired his daughter and her husband because of their "filial ingratitude and obsession with money".