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ASTÉRIX
de Goscinny et Uderzo

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Part of
Readings

You should read this comic book if : You want to know what every French child becomes impregnated with.

About this comic book :
excerpt from two pages of Wikipedia (English, here and there), expurgated of the details :

" Asterix
or The Adventures of Asterix is a series of French comic books written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. The series first appeared in French in the magazine Pilote in 1959. As of 2009, 34 comic books in the series have been released. The series follows the exploits of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. They do so by means of a magic potion, brewed by their druid, which gives the recipient superhuman strength.
The protagonist, the titular character Asterix, along with his friend Obelix have various adventures. The "ix" suffix of both names echoes the name of Vercingetorix, a historical Gaul chieftain. In many cases, the stories have Astérix and Obélix travel to various countries around the world.
The Asterix series is one of the most popular Franco-Belgian comics in the world, with the series being translated into over 100 languages, and it is popular in most European countries. Asterix is less well known in the United States and Japan.
The success of the series has led to the adaptation of several books into 13 films; eight animated, and five with live actors. There have also been a number of games based on the characters. A theme park near Paris, Parc Astérix (a very good alternative to Disneyland Paris), is themed around the series.
325 million copies of the Asterix books have been sold worldwide.
  • History :
Astérix was originally serialised in the magazine Pilote, in the very first issue published in 1959. In 1961 the first book
was put together entitled Asterix the Gaul. From then on, books were released generally on a yearly basis.
Uderzo's first sketches portrayed Asterix as a huge and strong traditional Gaulish warrior. But Goscinny had a different picture in his mind. He visualized Asterix as a shrewd small sized warrior who would prefer intelligence over strength. However, Uderzo felt that the small sized hero needed a strong but dim companion to which Goscinny agreed. Hence, Obelix was born.
When Goscinny died, Uderzo continued the series alone but most critics and fans of the series prefer Goscinny's albums.
  • Synopsis and character :

The main setting for the series is an unnamed coastal village in Armorica, a province of Gaul (ancient France), in the year 50 BC. Julius Caesar has conquered nearly all of Gaul for the Roman Empire. The little Armorican village, however, has held out because the villagers can gain temporary superhuman strength by drinking a magic potion brewed by the local village druid, Getafix.

The main protagonist and hero of the village is Asterix, who, because of his shrewdness, is usually entrusted with the most important affairs of the village. He is aided in his adventures by his rather fat and unintelligent friend, Obelix, who, because he fell into the druid's cauldron of the potion as a baby, has permanent superhuman strength. Obelix is usually accompanied by Dogmatix, his little dog.

Asterix and Obelix (and sometimes other members of the village) go on various adventures both within the village and in far away lands. Places visited in the series include parts of Gaul (Lutetia, Corsica etc.), neighbouring nations (Belgium, Spain, Britain, Germany etc.), and far away lands (but these latter albums are not so good).

  • Humour and translation :
The humour encountered in the Asterix comics is typically French, often centering on puns, caricatures, and tongue-
in-cheek stereotypes of contemporary European nations and French regions. Much of the humour in the initial Asterix books was French-specific, which delayed the translation of the books into other languages for fear of losing the jokes and the spirit of the story. Some translations have actually added local humour (Italian and British editions for instance).
In spite of (or perhaps because of) this stereotyping, and notwithstanding some alleged streaks of French chauvinism, the humour has been very well received by European and Francophone cultures around the world.

The 34 books or albums in the series have been translated into more than 100 languages and dialects (even Latin and Ancient Greek). The translation of the books into English has been done by Derek Hockridge and Anthea Bell.

They have been widely praised for their rendition of the English language edition, maintaining the spirit and humour of the original even when direct translation is impossible — as it often is when translating puns between languages which are not closely related. A good example occurs in Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield — when Obelix

redistributes the water in the spa pools by diving in, the other guests complain and the druid in charge arrives asking Vitalstatistix, "Where are your Gauls?" In the original French he responds Mes Gaulois sont dans la pleine ("My Gauls are in the full one") which is a play on a famous (in French) quote Les Gaulois sont dans la plaine ("The Gauls are on the plain") which of course sounds almost exactly the same, though not in English. Instead the translated reply is "Pooling your resources" (the water), a clever double entendre on a common phrase even though the original pun is lost. 

Sometimes nothing of the original joke is salvageable. In Asterix in Britain, much of the humor came from Goscinny's high-fidelity rendition of the English language using French words. This, of course, is totally lost by retranslation in English, but compensated for by making the British characters speak in an antiquated, early-twentieth-century style.

  • Translating names

In Asterix stories, many of the original names are humorous due to their absurdity. For example, the bard is Assurancetourix (assurance tous risques or "comprehensive insurance"), the translation of which is pointless since the bard has no connection to insurance of any kind — it's the silliness that makes it humorous. To maintain the spirit and flow of the story the translators change the joke in the name to a comment on the character. Thus in the English language edition the bard's name is Cacofonix which is an allusion to the term cacophony (a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds), since the central trait of the bard character is that the Gauls all hate listening to his music.

This happens in the original as well, as with Geriatrix (French: Agecanonix — canonical age — a French expression

meaning very old or ancient), but it is not common, while absurd names in English, such as Dubius Status, are reserved for minor or one-story characters. Fictional place names however tend to be equally silly in all translations, for example the four camps (castra) which surround Asterix's village: Compendium, Aquarium, Laudanum and Totorum (Tot o' rum, colloquial English for shot of rum) — in French this camp is called "Babaorum", a pun on baba au rhum or rum baba, a popular French pastry. (In one of the American translations, one of these camps is named Nohappimedium.)
  • Astérix in the USA
Astérix never achieved great success in the USA.
From 1977 until early 1979 five albums were serialized in syndicated form in a number of North American newspapers. Since these were printed as part of the standard daily comics, and were broken into separately licenced but concurrent daily and Sunday strips, the art and dialogs needed considerable reworking. In addition, a number of names, jokes, and pieces of art were further changed to be more politically correct or idiomatic for the newspapers' family-oriented audience. The results were very different from the original translations. The stories printed appeared in essentially random order as well, and the experiment came to an end quickly.
From 1984, Robert Steven Caron translated five volumes into American English. These are Asterix and the Great Crossing in 1984, Asterix the Legionary and Asterix at the Olympic Games in 1992, and Asterix in Britain and Asterix and Cleopatra in 1995. For copyright purposes most characters' names were changed. With Asterix never achieving great popularity in the United States, this series of retranslations was halted after these albums.

  • Comparison of names of major characters
 Original name in French
 Meaning  Description  British name
 American name (newspaper)
 American name (album)
 Astérix asterisk (because he is the star)  Gaulish warrior Asterix Asterix
Asterix
 Obélix obelisk (An obelisk is similar to a menhir; and the obelisk symbol † often follows the asterisk.)  Menhir
delivery man
Obelix Obelix
Obelix
 Idéfix  idée fixe (obsession)  Obelix’s dog Dogmatix Dogmatix
Dogmatix
 Panoramix  Panorama (wide view)  Druid  Getafix  Readymix  Magigimmix
 Abraracourcix  à bras raccourcis: (hit, lambast) violently  Village Chief  Vitalstatistix  Vitalstatistix  Macroeconomix
 Bonemine  Bonne mine (healthy look)  Chief's Wife  Impedimenta  /  Belladona
 Agecanonix  âge canonique (canonical age)  Village elder  Geriatrix  Geriatrix  Arthritix
 Assurancetourix  Assurance tous risques (comprehensive insurance)  Bard  Cacofonix  Cacofonix  Malacoustix
 Cétautomatix  c'est automatique (it's automatic)  Blacksmith  Fulliautomatix  /  /
 Ordralfabétix  ordre alphabétique (alphabetical order)  Fishmonger  Unhygienix  Fishtix  Epidemix
 iélosubmarine  Yellow Submarine  Wife of Fishmonger  Bacteria  /  /
 Falbala  Piece of clothing added to a dress, usually seen as a taste for luxury  Minor recurring character  Panacea  /  Philharmonia


 
 

What would I buy for my best friend  ?

Click on the album image corresponding to your country,
it will connect you to the right page on Amazon.
If your country is not listed, you may still have the possibility to buy from the nearest country, and choose "international shipping"
 
Please note that it's difficult to establish a hit parade. Asterix albums have many levels of reading, and sometimes you will enjoy as a child an album in which 50% of the hints won't be accessible. Later, as an adult, you will spot these allusions and enjoy the same album differently.

Generally speaking, among French fans of Asterix, it is acknowledged that the best albums are those between the fifth (Le tour de Gaule d'Astérix - Asterix and the banquet) and the twenty fourth (Astérix chez les belges - Asterix in Belgium). Why ? In the first four albums, the two authors are still looking for "their style" and the characters are not yet fully "fixed". Beyond the 24th album, the absence of Goscinny (who died in 1979) is perceptible ; Uderzo alone is not quite able to replace the duo all by himself (some of his albums are still very good - but they are a bit different from the original spirit of the Goscinny period).

I would certainly not recommend the albums after the 25th to anyone discovering Asterix.

Please note that reading the album in released order is slightly better, because it adds some fun with "backward jokes".

My favorites (in released order) :

Top of the top : n°6 (Astérix et Cléopatre, Asterix and Cleopatra), n°7 (Le combat des chefs, Asterix and the Big Fight ), n°8 (Astérix chez les Bretons, Asterix in Britain), n°10 ( Astérix légionnaire, Asterix the Legionary), n°12 (Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques, Asterix at the Olympic Games), n°15 (La zizanie, Asterix and the Roman agent), n°23 (Obélix et compagnie, Obelix and Co).

Very good : n°5 (Le tour de Gaule, Asterix and the Banquet), n°9 (Astérix et les normands, Asterix and the normans), n°16 (Astérix chez les Helvètes, Asterix in Switzerland), n°17 (Le domaine des Dieux, The mansions of the Gods), n°24 (Astérix chez les Belges, Asterix in Belgium).

Good : all the others between 5 and 24, plus n°3 (Astérix et les goths, Asterix and the Goths), n°4 (Astérix gladiateur, Asterix the Gladiator) and n°25 (le Grand Fossé, Asterix and the Great Divide).


"La zizanie - Asterix and the roman agent", "Le domaine des dieux, The mansions of the Gods" and "Obélix et compagnie, Obelix and Co" are more suitable for adults, the underlying theme being difficult to grasp for children.

What should be your strategy depending on your level of French ?
- If you've never read any Asterix comic book and you are a beginner in French, I would advise you to buy a version in your native language (see here).
- If you have already read some Asterix comic books in your language, and/or you are at an intermediate to advanced level in French, I would advise you to buy a version in French
, so that you can enjoy the original humour of the story.


Here are the best albums available in French  in your country.

Le meilleur d'Astérix, partout, en français !


 
Your country
The albums in French
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Astérix et les goths, Asterix and the Goths



Astérix gladiateur, Asterix the Gladiator



 
 

 

Le tour de Gaule d'Astérix
,
Asterix and the banquet



 
 

 
 

Astérix et Cléopatre
, Asterix and Cleopatra
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Astérix Le combat des chefs,
Asterix and the Big Fight
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Astérix chez les Bretons,
Asterix in Britain


Astérix et les normands
,
Asterix and the normans

        
 Your country
Your album in French


Astérix légionnaire, Asterix the Legionary


Astérix et le bouclier d'Arverne,
Asterix and the chieftain's shield


Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques
,
Asterix at the Olympic Games


Astérix et le chaudron, Asterix and the cauldron


Astérix en Hispanie,
 Asterix in Spain


Astérix La zizanie, Asterix and the Roman agent

 

Astérix chez les Helvètes,
Asterix in Switzerland

        
Your country
Your album in French

Astérix Le domaine des Dieux
,
The mansions of the Gods


Astérix Les lauriers de César,
Asterix and the Laurel Wreath


Astérix Le Devin, Asterix The Soothsayer


Astérix en Corse, Asterix in Corsica


Astérix Le cadeau de César,
Asterix and Caesar's Gift



Astérix La grande traversée,
Asterix and the Great Crossing



Astérix Obélix et compagnie,
Asterix Obelix and company


Astérix chez les Belges,
Asterix in Belgium


Astérix Le grand fossé, Asterix The great Divide




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