The New York Times’ City Room has an article about the Brooklyn Public Library removing from its open shelves a copy of Tintin au Congo written and illustrated by the Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé and first published in 1931. The cause: its illustrations of African natives in a racially insensitive way. The action comes in response to a patron complaint of “the art depiction of black people looking like monkeys” and led the library to keep the book in a collection that is kept under lock and key. To view the item, patrons must make an appointment days in advance. The Times article includes graphic samples from the work supporting that conclusion. Years after creating the work, Hergé stated that he regretted the presentation claiming that his editor pushed him to depict the glories of Belgian colonialism in Africa through the Tintin books.
The Times article cites other offensive titles that remain in the generally accessible collection, for example, Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller, Beloved by Toni Morrison and Looking for Alaska by John Green. Brooklyn Public Library’s book removal policy favors access to controversial materials but Tintin au Congo did not survive the process. The Times article is interesting to read to see how public libraries respond to complaints about controversial titles.
Controversy over Tintin has been around for years and will likely continue given the upcoming film version of the work by Steven Spielberg. Listen to leading British Tintinologist Michael Farr’s interview in this two part video clip for more.