Monday, July 9, 2012

When Asterix Meets Das Kapital

There are in total 33 books of Asterix. I am sad to accept that I have not read all of them yet. I do have all the PDFs but I prefer to read actual books and till now I could have collected only two-third of those books. And yes I am a big fan of them. I read these books time and time again and absolutely love the pun, wit, humour and parody created by Goscinny and Uderzo in these books. With the multiple readings and re-readings of these Asterix comics I have noticed how various contemporary events made their appearance with a different guise. May it be Neil Armstrong’s famous quote after landing on the moon (Asterix and the Great Crossing) or the name of Hindu gods and reference of cricket (Asterix and the magic Carpet), sometimes I wonder how could they even did their thorough research in those days of no google and Wikipedia.

But the one I read recently took that banter into a completely different level. The book I am referring to is ‘Obelix and Co.’ and the subject of their banter, Capitalism!! Now that is something you don’t easily get in a comics. Tintin did touch various political issues and even try to highlight a global conspiracy to increase the oil price in ‘Land of Black Gold’ but this Asterix book is in a completely different level.
The story started in a typical fashion in Totorum, one of four Roman camps near the Gaulish village. But unlike the other stories, the legionaries are not following much discipline. The reason is simple, they have decided not to go out of their own camp from the fear of getting beaten by those indomitable Gauls. The only thing they do was to wait for their relief. The relief party did come which brought great excitement in the Gaulish village who decided to gift that entire Roman army to Obelix on the occasion of his birthday!! And after a few painful moments when Obelix was enjoying his birthday present and the other villagers singing “Happy Birthday to you” this Roman army group also asked for their relief.

All these events made Julias Caesar an unhappy man in Rome. And to add the misery all his experienced officers has now become corrupt and only interested in maintaining protocol. This has been pointed out by Preposterus (who incidentally was a pass out of LSE, Latin School of Economics), and it was him who came up with the idea of corrupting Gauls by introducing capitalism in their mind. And his target is none other than Obelix and his menhir delivery business.
And there starts all the craziness! With the sheer mastery of their art, Goscinny and Uderzo touched all the various aspect of consumer market and corporates. The business lunch, the circle of money, the production of useless fancy products, the meaningless campaign strategy to attract buyers by making them envious to their neighbours, over production, menhir graveyards (to keep useless old menhirs ala car graveyard) nothing was missed. That’s not the end, those big sugar-quoted advertisements on the bill boards, a competition from home grown businesses as well as foreign makers, free gifts with menhirs and even a road block (common tactic by French/Bengali strikers) made their occurrence in the book.

But finally the bubble had busted and all the sestertius given by the Romans were devalued and our Gaulish village went back to their normal way of thrashing Romans. This time it was a gift from Obelix to the villagers who showed great resilientof his character by not touching a single Roman during the attack.
On the outside this is another simple, funny Asterix adventure but if you can dig deep you will get the true meaning. Although it is happening around us all the time but the complexity of these strategies are rooted far deeper. But the effortless way this book has touched the actual problem is mind blowing.

This one will always remain one of my favourites in the Asterix series.


  1. Tapabrata, this is one of the most underrated of all Asterix books. It's surprisingly low-key book with low-key characters: Obelix takes the centrestage; the subtlety of the satire through which consumerism is bashed is incredible.

    Overall, an awesome read. Books like these separate Asterix from Tintin.

  2. Completely agree with the last comment!!

  3. I love a kid i did not get the complete essence of it but it grew on me later....

    1. Exactly. you can only feel all the word play and puns once you become a little matured.