Category Archives: Reading

Reviews of books, comics, short stories. Whatever.

Cabu, RIP

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Charlie Hebdo must be veiled!

Sued once by Muslims, sued five times by Catholic integrists, Charlie Hebdo mocked pomposity and control-freakery everywhere. Equal-opportunity arse-kicking. What they did was not always in the best of taste; it was, however, always with the best of intentions: expose hypocrisy, racism, corruption and sheer bloody incompetence wherever they were found.

The cover above was drawn by Cabu. I adored Cabu. WhenI first arrived in France, many years ago, I encountered him and his ridiculous haircut on a children’s show, of all things, with his quick pen, deceptively simple style and angelic smile. A French Tony Hart. Where other political cartoonists were renowned for being harsh, Cabu was often criticised for not being harsh enough. Nevertheless, his iconic antihero, Mon Beauf1, was also part of the cartoon family who illustrated the closing credits of that children’s programme and never left him.

Mon Beauf was always destined to become a staunch supporter of the Front National. Violent, racist, ready to hop on to any ideological bandwagon, the type Cabu described as “one in every café”. All the negative traits of humanity were embodied in him. After the tragic events of Mourmelon, when eight young army recruits were found to have been abducted, raped and murdered by a senior officer, Le Beauf, of course, had only fond memories of this guy – totally at odds with what really happened (illustrated alongside the comments), but the beauf’ will always include something as abhorrent as rape apology among his many faults.

And a love of killing things for sport:

STOP ILLEGAL MIGRANTS!

STOP ILLEGAL MIGRANTS!

Le Beauf’ had a nemesis: le Grand Duduche, a tall gentle lad who was essentially Cabu in cartoon form. It is tragic that such a gentle man should die under a hail of bullets, mocking to the last what he despised above all.

With any luck, collections of his drawings may be published or republished. Get them direct from Charlie Hebdo (once they’re back in business) or Le Canard enchaîné.

Footnote:
1. A beauf’ – short for beau-frère (brother-in-law) – is also slang for a  stupid, ignorant and highly opinionated person. Think the family member who insists on talking politics at reunions, gets maudlin over Thatcher and never lifts a bloody finger to help with anything. The richer ones drive fancy cars, but all of them hate being overtaken.

Snuff, by Terry Pratchett

Samuel Vimes as he appears in The Pratchett Po...

Image via Wikipedia

October is Pratchett Novel Month. Some people may celebrate other things, but this is the only one that’s known and practised worldwide. This year’s cause for festivity is another Discworld novel: the 39th in the series, in fact.

How Terry Pratchett has managed to write so many novels based in the same mythical universe and still receive acclaim for them may be mystifying to some. In fact, the answer is quite simple: although he may sometimes reuse the same characters, each situation, each plot is different. Each book examines a different side of human nature, real human nature. The fictional setting just makes it much more fun to read.

Each book is different? Well, perhaps up until now, because in Snuff I detected elements of The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch and Thud!. Not enough to render the book uninteresting, and all these novels come highly recommended. No, it’s just that you get the feeling that Sam Vimes, the copper who’s so through-and-through copper that even his inner demon is a copper, has reached the end of his long psychological journey…

Oops, that might be almost considered a spoiler.

It’s a detective novel, with obligatory chase (not in cars, this is a world halfway between magic and steampunk). It’s a plea for tolerance, rational thinking and solvable crossword puzzles. There are goblins: a strange, hunted, unloved and apparently unloveable race. There is a murder and an unexplained disappearance. Then things really go downhill.

It’s a walk on the dark side of humanity and, even if the ending is perhaps is a little too glib, you need to read it. And the 38 preceding books as well. Some of them are principally aimed at children in their early teens (the main character is a young girl), but then so are the Harry Potter books, and these are far better written. Adults can read them without shame or embarrassment.

For some weird reason, I keep visualising Vimes as looking like David Tennant. It must be all the running.

Look, go buy the damn thing, will you? Just click on the title of any novel to go to its Amazon page. I assume you know what to do after that? Good. I’ve got a book to re-read in case I missed any clever stuff the first time.