Tuesday, October 27, 2015

writing history

Asterix: Le papyrus de César

The 36th Asterix album – the second from the new team, Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad – addresses a question of utmost importance for the historical consistency of the whole oeuvre: Why on earth did Caesar not mention the indomitable Gauls and their numerous victories against his legions in his famous De Bello Gallico? Did he falsify the historical record by omission? Are all the zillions of schoolchildren who start their Latin reading with “Gallia est omnis divisa …” fed a pack of lies?

The issue is addressed with a very satisfying story, resulting in an album worthy to be read alongside the Golden Era ones written in the years before Goscinny died. On the basis of this story, there are deep discussions to be had about how history is written, the contribution of reportage, the value of oral tradition, and the philosophy of truth. Oh, and the vanity of writers and the publishing industry. And Assurancetourix the bard (Cacofonix / Troubadix) plays an early example of a Stroh cello, so what’s not to love?

Intriguingly, this arrived on my doorstep just after I started reading another recently published book featuring the origins of Caesar’s famous opus. In the third volume of his fictionalised biography of Cicero, Robert Harris imagines Cicero’s secretary Tiro visiting Caesar in Gaul and reading the beginning of his 12th chapter: “Flumen est Arar quod per fines Haeduorum et Sequanorum in Rhodanum influit, incredibili lenitate ita ut oculis in utram partem fluat iudicari non possit.” Seeing that Tiro is believed to have written a biography of Cicero which is lost, while Caesar’s book is so ubiquitous that it would survive the apocalypse, this encounter between two authors is also an interesting reflection on the vagaries of history writing.

looks like a fragment of the lost scroll survived in the font of the word "papyrus" - maybe the authors should reveal that in full ...

PS: here's an interview with the creators, from the Guardian.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails