The Forbidden Planet blog has an article on a Congolese political science student who is pressing charges against Moulinsart for the racism in Tintin in the Congo. This follow the Commission for Racial Equality wanting it pulled from the shelves.
The Belgian equivalent has taken the sensible step of not helping him as this is a text that is clearly out of date written by a now deceased author. Whilst there is no way that you can read this graphic novel as not being racist, its almost like the Belgian equivalient of Kipling – an equally racist author when all is said and done. Yet like Kipling, Herge produced intelligent work by which we judge him. Also Congo very much falls into the same vein as Tintin in the Land of the Soviets with the flat portrayal of the communists as stupid, totalitarian and evil.
It does raise the question of how do you judge a work – is it of its time or should it try and be timeless. There is generally a shift in perceptions if you leave a work for long enough. Can one truly contextualise a novel coming to it much later on and if so, how much historical and sociological knowlege does one need to have?
Whilst racism, like any other hate speech/thought, should not be tolerated in a sense I hope that this case never makes it to court, let alone wins. If so, how much rewriting and shredding will be called for? That’s even more terrifying to me than being offended.