Comic book hero

The little Gaul with a big mate who made fools of the Roman empire is still much loved and celebrated.

Asterix, te amamus! For those not lucky enough to learn their Latin from the dazzling Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo comic books, that means, “Asterix, we love you!”

How brilliant the Asterix books are and how very clever in their puns and deep appreciation of Roman history. Now a new exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Camden, London, shows how much research Goscinny the writer and Uderzo the artist put into the books; and yet, like so much hard-won art, the result looks effortlessly light.

The Asterix books have sold 500 million copies worldwide, and been translated into 150 languages, with 100 film adaptations. No wonder. They are so funny, in a way that Tintin, brilliantly illustrated as it is by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (Herge), isn’t. Goscinny’s life, celebrated in the new exhibition, was cruelly short. Born in Paris in 1926, a child of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Ukraine, he grew up in Argentina before moving to New York and then back to Europe. He died in Paris of a heart attack in 1977, aged 51.

Read the article by Harry Mount in The Australian.