SYLDAVIA IS MY favourite country in the world. The buildings are old, the peasants are happy, and the king is ruling from his throne. Adding to my collection of Tintin books, the preponderance of which remain in New York, I know have three Afrikaans editions of Hergé’s works: Die Blou Lotus, Die Geheim van ‘De Eenhoorn’, and — my preferred among all the Tintin books — Koning Ottokar se Septer. Aside from Afrikaans, the rest of my copies are all either in French or English. I have a copy of the reprinted Tintin au Pays des Soviets and I just recently bought a copy of Tintin in the Congo, as I figured the European Union’s attempt to ban the book might make it harder to come by in years to come. I bought a copy of Le Sceptre d’Ottokar in a gas station in Brittany, one of the six special editions with a preface by Bernard Tordeur of the Hergé Foundation released in 1999/2000. Aside from Au Pays des Soviets & Le Sceptre, the only other French editions I have are L’Île Noire and Le Lotus bleu.
Tintin is, of course, much different in Afrikaans than in English. For starters, the names of the characters take after the Dutch translations rather than the French or English. Tintin is Kuifie, Snowy is Spokie, Captain Haddock is Kaptein Sardijn, and Professor Calculus is Professor Fosfatus. The lookalike-but-not-related Interpol detectives Thomson and Thompson are Uys en Buys, while the names of other characters like Bianca Castafiore, the butler Nestor, or the evil Rastapopoulos are unchanged.
Four of the books were translated into Afrikaans in the 1970s but the next two translations didn’t make it into print until the mid-1990s, with a further series of twenty-one released from 2004-2008. The only complaint I have is that for some reason the publishers Human & Rousseau have used a font in the Afrikaans editions in which the upper arm of the lower-case ‘k’ is so large it almost looks like an upper-case ‘k’. Very irritating!
I’ve always thought King Ottokar’s Sceptre would make a cracking film. In Sceptre, Syldavia, a centuries-old traditional monarchy in the heart of Europe, is threatened by a totalitarian fifth column funded by the suspiciously Nazi-Communist neighbouring country of Borduria. The plot reaches the inner circles of the Syldavian court, but Tintin saves the day and, in the final scene, is award the Order of the Golden Pelican by the grateful King Muskar XII.
Next up on the Cusack list to be filmed after Sceptre would definitely be The Blue Lotus, another tale of political intrigue, set during the Sino-Japanese conflict over Manchuria, and after that The Black Island, set as it is in my geliefde land van Skotland. California’s Steven Spielberg KBE and New Zealand’s Peter Jackson CNZM are currently working on a film adaptation of The Secret of the Unicorn, and we look forward with fear and trepidation to see what they manage to produce.