An English translation of a 1996 biography of Hergé, the creator of the Tintin graphic novels, may prove to be an embarrassment to Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who are making a two-part movie based on the Tintin character. (Part one is due to hit the screen next year.) Hergé The Man Who Created Tintin , written by Pierre Assouline and translated by Charles Ruas, paints Hergé, who died in 1983, as a racist, an anti-Semite, and a Nazi collaborator. Unlike previous writings about the Tintin creator, Assouline's book benefits from the fact that the author was given unrestricted access to Hergé's letters. "The facts are damning," wrote Toronto mental health researcher/writer Jessica Warner in Saturday's Toronto Globe and Mail. She notes that throughout World War II, according to the book, Hergé worked for a Belgian collaborationist newspaper, Le Soir -- and never looked back on that period with regret. "While everyone found it normal that a mechanic made trains run, they thought that people of the press were supposedly traitors," he wrote after the war. Towards the end of the war he wrote a story in which Tintin was kidnapped by militant Zionists. (After the war he changed the villains to Arabs.) That Spielberg chose to collaborate with a collaborationist -- he began direct negotiations with him in the late '70s -- may come as a shock to Jewish groups who have hailed his Schindler's List and his personal contributions to Israel. (Tour guides at Hebrew University point to his name on a wall listing million-dollar contributors.) However, one Hergé defender notes that when his early works are republished these days, they appear in black and white, "which help identify them as youthful follies."

08/02/2010