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For controversial Tintin, visit Lambiek

29 August 2007 - Abroad, attempts have been made to have the book Tintin in the Congo banned because of its racist content. Amsterdam bookshops sell the book as usual. Comic book shop Lambiek has the unexpurgated edition.

In the UK, sales of the book soared after complaints about its racist content. Amsterdam bookshops say demand has increased only marginally. At Lambiek, two to three customers asked for the book because of the controversy, says Boris Kousemaker.

He expects to receive a reprint of the original 1930s black and white edition today. In the 1940s, a redrawn and expurgated coloured version was published. Incidentally, the redrawn version is far from politically correct too: “It’s Sambo this, Sambo that”, Kousemaker says.

Withdrawing the book because of the controversy is out of the question: “There is no reason whatsoever. Then you might as well ban Sjors en Sjimmie [a Dutch comic from the 1930s featuring a stereotyped black kid] too”. Of course, it is not his intention to attract shady characters. “I have not been visited by Neo-Nazis asking for Tintin in the Congo yet”, he says laughing.

Scheltema, Het Beeldverhaal and Fantasia also rule out pulling the book from the shelves. “Let people concern themselves with serious matters”, Het Beeldverhaal’s Jeanet Scheepers suggests.

Athenaeum does not sell Tintin at all, but says it is inconceivable that it would stop selling a book because of a controversy like this. “Other people’s opinions do not dictate what we sell”, an employee says.

A Congolese student in Belgium and a Swede of Congolese descent have tried to get the the book banned. The Swedish public prosecutor announced last week that it will not pursue the case for procedural reasons.

In the UK, the Commission for Racial Equality called on booksellers to stop selling the book. The Borders book chain moved the book from the children’s section to the adult graphic novels section in July.

A spokesperson of the commission was not satisfied: “How and why do Borders think that it's OK to peddle such racist material?” she told the Guardian. According to the spokesperson, the only place where the book belongs is in a museum, with a sign saying ‘old-fashioned, racist claptrap’.

As a result of the controversy, UK sales of the book rose by almost four thousand percent. According to Rob van Muijden of the Fantasia comic book shop, this is partly because hardly any copies were sold in the UK before the controversy.

In the past, Tintin in the Congo has also been targeted by Danish animal rights activists, because Tintin uses dynamite to blow up a rhinoceros. In the redrawn Danish and English versions, the rhinoceros flees after Tintin has fired a shot, according to the French Wikipedia.

Illustration: cover of the black and white English edition (Wikipedia). Lambiek (in English), Het Beeldverhaal, Fantasia, Scheltema, Athenaeum (in Dutch). Sweden, UK


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