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|Tintin and Alph-Art
(Tintin et l'alph-art)
Cover of the English edition
|Series||The Adventures of Tintin (Les aventures de Tintin)|
|Translator||Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner|
|Preceded by||Tintin and the Picaros, 1976|
Tintin and Alph-Art (French: Tintin et l'alph-art) is the intended twenty-fourth and last of The Adventures of Tintin, the series of comic albums written and illustrated by Belgian artist Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as the hero. It is a striking departure from the earlier books in tone and subject, as well as in style; rather than being set in the usual exotic, action-packed environment this story is largely played out in the world of modern art.
Hergé worked on the book until his death in 1983. It was published posthumously (despite its unfinished status) in 1986 by Casterman in association with the Hergé Foundation. The foundation republished it in 2004 with further material.
In 1976, a few months after the publication of Tintin and the Picaros, Hergé told the journalist Numa Sadoul that he was contemplating the next adventure of Tintin—setting an entire story in an airport lounge. This idea was dropped, and in 1978, he decided to set the story in the world of modern art. During later years Hergé had grown more and more interested in modern art, even attempting it a few times himself as a hobby; so he chose to incorporate his love of avant-garde artwork into the new story. Hergé was inspired by the Fernand Legros and Elmyr de Hory affair, and incorporated a second element, a new age sect and a phoney guru. He planned to cast Rastapopoulos as the villain, but according to Harry Thompson, dropped the idea in 1980 when he introduced the alphabet art element. Still, an idea exists that the villain Ramó Nash or his accomplice Endaddine Akass may be Rastapopoulous in another disguise.
The story opens with Captain Haddock having a nightmare of being visited by Bianca Castafiore, who demands that he take his medicine (actually a bottle of Loch Lomond whisky). When he refuses, as he still cannot stand the beverage after the events of the previous book, Castafiore turns into a huge bird-like creature and begins to attack Haddock. Fortunately, Tintin manages to wake him up, whereupon Tintin receives a telephone call from the real Castafiore, who tells him that she has arrived in Belgium for a few days. She continues her conversation with Tintin, telling him about her new spiritual leader, Endaddine Akass, with whom she intends to stay at his villa in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples.
Later that morning, Captain Haddock comes across Castafiore in a Brussels street, and in order to avoid her, dashes into the nearby Fourcart Gallery, where he meets Jamaican avant-garde artist Ramó Nash (the master of "Alph-Art") and the owner of the gallery, Henri Fourcart. Fourcart displays considerable interest in meeting Tintin. At the gallery, Haddock is pressed into purchasing a perspex letter "H" ("Personalph-Art") created by Nash. That evening, when Haddock returns to Marlinspike, he and Tintin watch a news report featuring their old friend Emir Ben Kalish Ezab, who, flushed with oil profits, plans to buy Windsor Castle from the Government of the United Kingdom and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The same news program then features a report on the suspicious death of art expert Jacques Monastir, who is presumed drowned off the coast of Ajaccio, Corsica.
The next morning, Tintin learns that Fourcart was killed in a car accident, apparently en route to visit him. He visits the gallery to "make a few enquiries" and meets Martine Vandezande, the gallery assistant, who wears large glasses and a strange pendant resembling two E's lined back to back. She discusses the death of her former employer, while her conversation with Tintin is recorded by a reel-to-reel tape recorder hidden under the counter. Tintin then visits the Garage de l'Avenir at Leignault, where the mechanic tells him the location of Fourcart's car crash. Tintin drives there on his motor scooter and is pursued by a black Mercedes. At the scene, Tintin discovers that Fourcart was murdered. The drivers of the black Mercedes then make a botched attempt on Tintin's life. He returns to Marlinspike and tells the Captain about the events of the day.
The next morning, Tintin returns to the gallery and accuses Miss Martine of telling his attackers he was going to visit Leignault. However, she bursts into tears, suggesting to a shocked Tintin that she may be innocent. On his way home, Tintin sees a poster in the street advertising a conference titled "Health and Magnetism" to be held by the mystic Endaddine Akass, who is shown on the poster wearing a pendant similar to Miss Martine's. That evening, Tintin and Haddock attend the meeting, where they see not only Miss Martine (a follower of Akass's movement) but also Thomson and Thompson and Mr. Sakharine (from The Secret of the Unicorn) in attendance. During the ceremony, Tintin recognises the voice of Akass, but cannot place it. He and Haddock encounter Miss Martine as she leaves the conference. Tintin asks her about the pendant that she wears, which was given to her and "magnetized" by Akass. Believing that he is beginning to understand the affair, Tintin informs Miss Martine the next morning of his plan to unmask Fourcart's murderers. Late that evening, he arrives, carrying a red lamp, at the old Fréaux factory, where he had arranged to meet an informer. Tintin lights his lamp, and the "informer" shoots at him. He avoids injury and attempts to arrest the informer, who is saved when an accomplice knocks Tintin unconscious. He awakes in hospital with Haddock at his bedside, to whom he explains his revelation that there is a micro-transmitter concealed in the pendant worn by Miss Vandezande. Tintin infers that Endaddine Akass gave the unwitting Miss Martine the pendant in order to spy upon Fourcart and senses that he is inextricably linked to his death.
The next morning (despite doctor's orders), Tintin visits each of the other occupants in the apartments that house the Fourcart Gallery. He visits the occupants under the pretence of conducting a survey on solar power, and recognises a particularly rude resident as Akass's assistant at the meeting. Knowing that he has been recognized, Akass's assistant sends Tintin away and telephones someone, and then agrees to "take care of" Tintin. The next morning, Tintin leaves the Hall for the village on his motor scooter, and is pursued by the same men who had attacked him in the Mercedes. They shoot at Tintin, whose scooter careens off-road and crashes into a tree. Before the would-be assassins can confirm if Tintin was killed, Haddock, having heard the gunfire, arrives in his car, causing them to flee. Once they are gone, Tintin climbs down from his hiding place inside a pollarded willow. Tintin, Haddock and Calculus later assess the situation around the table. Tintin concludes that the entire affair revolves around Endaddine Akass, and that they should find out more about him. Remembering Castafiore's telephone call several days earlier, he decides to go to Ischia, where Akass has a villa.
Upon their arrival, Tintin and Haddock spy out the land, observing Akass's villa from a distance, where they see Ramó Nash (the pioneer of "Alph-Art" from whom Haddock bought his perspex "H"). At their hotel, Tintin receives a threatening telephone call warning him to leave the island, and Haddock receives one from Castafiore, who has discovered their presence on the island, and, informing them that Akass is in Rome for a few days, invites them to the villa. The next morning, they arrive at the villa, where Castafiore introduces them to a number of her friends: the debutante Angelina Sordi, the corrupt industrialists Mr Gibbons (from The Blue Lotus) and Mr Trickler (from The Broken Ear), Emir Ben Kalish Ezab (from Land of Black Gold), Luigi Randazzo (a singer), and Ramó Nash. Tintin and Haddock stay the night at the villa on Castafiore's insistence.
Tintin is awakened by a noise in the middle of the night, and looking out of the window, sees men loading canvases into a van. Intrigued, he explores the villa. In a huge room he comes across a number of paintings by the great masters—Modigliani, Léger, Renoir, Picasso, Gauguin and Monet—and discovers them all to be fakes. He is discovered by Endaddine Akass, of whom it is revealed that he uses Ramó Nash's "Alph-Art" as a front for large-scale art forgeries. He admits to ordering the "disappearance" of Monastir and Fourcart, who were aware of his activities (and in Fourcart's case, wanted to expose them to Tintin), and states that as Tintin knows too much, he will have to die, too. Akass tells Tintin that in order to kill him, he will have liquid polyester poured over him, so that he may be turned into a statue, be "signed" by César, and authenticated by a (presumably corrupt) art expert. The "expansion" piece, entitled "Reporter", will then be sold to a museum or a rich collector. Tintin is led away by one of Akass's men to a cell, where he is locked up. He manages to make contact with Snowy, who is outside the cell. He writes a note to the Captain and throws it to Snowy through the bars on the window. Night passes, and in the morning, Tintin is awakened by Akass's bodyguard. As the guard leads Tintin out of the cell, he says,
|“||"Get moving! It's time for you to be turned into a 'César'..."||”|
It is at this point that The Adventures of Tintin ends, and what is going to happen next, or who Akass really is, is unknown. The text as a whole is essentially a rough draft, and contains enough room for revision.
Upon his death, Hergé left around one hundred and fifty pages of pencil sketches for the story. These were edited by a team of experts, including Benoît Peeters, Michel Bareau and Jean-Manuel Duvivier, resulting in forty-four pages of sketches. The album, therefore, only presents the scenarios and sketches of an interrupted tale.
It is possible that the scenes set at Marlinspike would have been reduced in favour of balance of the story—in the original manuscript, Tintin, Snowy and Haddock do not leave for Ischia until page 31. Furthermore, the scene involving Tintin and Mrs Laijot was marked for possible cutting (20bis on the original manuscript, meaning an additional page 20).
Hergé's main assistant, Bob de Moor, showed an interest in completing the book following Hergé's death. It was not an unusual request; de Moor had worked with Hergé since 1951, was responsible for running the Studios Hergé in his absence, adapted the animated film Tintin and the Lake of Sharks into comic-strip form, and worked on the previous book Tintin and the Picaros with Hergé alone. In de Moor's words, "Personally I would have loved to finish Alph-Art. It would have been a tribute to Hergé. Fanny Remi asked me to finish it, and I began work on it, but after a few months she changed her mind. I didn't insist, but for me it was logical that there was a studio, there were artists in the studio, Casterman asked for it to be finished, there were twenty-three finished books, that one story was not finished; so I had to finish it".
The book was first published in English in 1990 by Sundancer. Given the nature of the unfinished artwork with Hergé's original hand-written text, the translations do not replace the original text. They are presented separately in a supplementary booklet included with the book.
The 2004 edition, published by Egmont, uses an entirely new layout, mixing Hergé's pages with the text and enlarged frames to highlight parts of the story. It is in the same format as the standard albums—a hardback book, sixty-two pages in length, and is readily available in the UK. The same edition was published in 2007 by Little, Brown/Hachette in the USA.
A number of pirated versions of the story exist, finished by other artists. The first was produced by an artist under the name of Ramó Nash. The second, and more renowned, is by Canadian artist Yves Rodier. Originally drawn and printed (privately) in black-and-white in the early 1990s, a color version was produced in 2004 by Finnish-based group Studio Juhis. The Rodier edition has been translated into English by various people, the edition by Rackham being the most successful and with a different cover.
Note: the first English-language edition of the book, published by Sundancer, is now out of print.
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