01 October 2007
The news that Little Brown will not be publishing Tintin in the Congo is not really news. This story made the rounds of the blogosphere earlier in the year when the book was released in Europe. My gut instinct is to disagree with this decision, because to me it seems like historical revisionism. I can understand not marketing it as a children's book. I can even understand not including it in the box set. But to decide against publishing it altogether seems spineless and naive; spineless because the publisher's preferred to avoid a controversy, and naive because ignoring the book doesn't make what is objectionable less so. English children's novelist Anne Fine commented on the controversy in an article for The Times, citing incidents in her own writing where she has revised older texts for modern readers. If she chooses to do that to her own writing, that's her decision. And I guess choosing not to publish a book is a publisher's prerogative, but I would have had more respect for their decision to cancel publication if Little Brown said they wouldn't make any profit from the book. Everyone knows that money talks. And maybe that is what's motivating this decision, and they're not simply taking the high road.
I always come back to the opinion that if something is objectionable, don't buy it/read it/promote it. English journalist Kathryn Hughes agrees, although she is of the opinion that modern readers can learn from their unenlightened ancestors. Which takes us back to that historical revisionism thing. Tintin in the Congo is what it is: a book written when colonialism and colonialist attitudes were rampant. Eradicating racism from modern society is commendable, but eradicating all reference to it is not the way it's done.