Saturday, October 31, 2009


Asterix turns 50

AsterixThis week has marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first Asterix cartoon.

For those of you who don’t know: Asterix is a warrior in an old Gaulish village, the only village around that hasn’t fallen to the Romans. The Romans, of course, keep trying to correct that, but the Gauls aren’t having it. In the cartoon, the Gauls mostly have names ending in -ix: Obelix, the menhir salesman; Getafix, the druid and potion maker; Vitalstatistix, the chief of the village; Dogmatix, Asterix’s dog; Geriatrix, the village’s eldest resident; Cacofonix, the bard.[1] The Romans tend to have names ending in -us, like Superfluous, Ignoramus, Cantankerus, Arteriosclerosus,[2] Caius Fatuous, Marcus Ubiquitus, Gastroenteritus, and, my favourite, Goldendelicius.

The cartoon is written and drawn by Albert Uderzo, now 82, and was written by René Goscinny until his death in 1977 — at age 51; his cartoon characters will soon be older than he ever was. Goscinny managed some clever wordplay and good wit in the writing, and that’s been continued by Uderzo. It’s also been successfully brought into the translations, which are of excellent quality, far better than one might expect from a comic-book series. Asterix has been translated into over 100 languages, including Esperanto, Latin, and ancient Greek.

There have been films, both animated and live — the live ones star Gérard Depardieu as Obélix.

There’s a theme park, outside of Paris.

If you’re not familiar with Asterix do check it out. The 50th anniversary is a good excuse.

The official Asterix site (English main page).
50 years of Asterix, from the official site.
Asterix and the golden jubilee, an article from the UK Guardian (thanks to Ray for the pointer to that).

[1] Those are the names from the English version; the original French names are sometimes different (for example, the bard is Assurancetourix in French, which basically translates to “travel insurance”), and they turn into other names in other languages (the bard is Troubadix in the German version).

[2] Of course, these names, too, vary by language. The French version of Arteriosclerosus is called Pamplemus — “Grapefruit”.


Ray said...

Google (at least in some countries, but, regrettably, not in the US) also got into the spirit of the occasion, as you can see here.

The Ridger, FCD said...

The translations of these books rise and meet tremendous challenges. They're wonderful!

Frisky070802 said...

First time I saw asterix was when a friend who'd moved from US to Europe sent me a book in French. It was vaguely entertaining but I always wondered, where's the beef?