The Jewels of the Castafiore
November 30, 2021
Les Bijoux de la Castafiore is the twenty-first album in the cartoon series Les Aventures de Tintin, created by the Belgian designer Hergé. The story is first pre-published from July 4, 1961 to September 13, 1962 in the pages of the newspaper Tintin, before being published in an album of sixty-two plates by Casterman editions in 1963. Les Bijoux de la Castafiore, which takes place only at the Château de Moulinsart and its surroundings, is the only album in the series which has a unity of place, but also the second in the series, after Le Secret de La Licorne, where the characters do not travel. A puzzling album, Les Bijoux de la Castafiore is a work apart in Tintin's universe. Three years after Tintin in Tibet, considered his most personal album, Hergé continues to question the codes of comics. Conceived as a "vague detective plot", in his own words, this anti-adventure consists of a series of trompe-l'oeil and false clues. The characters of this vast comedy are in turn suspected of a theft of jewelry which, in the end, is not one. In this story where action and adventure are absent, the reader is nevertheless held in suspense by the many twists and traps that the author slips. Language figures at the center of this "madman's story", as Pierre Assouline qualifies it, while misunderstandings, slip-ups and misunderstandings are linked and contribute to the scrambling of the plot as much as they advance it. Humor is also omnipresent in this album considered as "the unsurpassable summit of Hergean comedy" by Thierry Groensteen. Throughout the album, Hergé develops a number of themes, such as the fear of foreigners opposed by Tintin and Captain Haddock by providing assistance to a group of Gypsies against and against all prejudices, or even the concept of good distance between individuals developed a century earlier by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The story also contains many hidden erotic messages that reinforce the ambiguity of the relationship between the Captain and the Castafiore. The album also marks Tintin's entry into the media era and testifies to the author's critical outlook on this universe. While Moulinsart is hosting the shooting of a television program, the tests of a color television model developed by Professor Tournesol prove unsuccessful and the designer, through the reports of the press people, denounces a form journalism prioritizing the scoop rather than the truth. The abundance of media and their growing place in society are therefore transposed into an album which questions the reader about his perception of reality, just as it reveals a certain disenchantment of the author with respect to his character and to the world that surround it. According to Benoît Peeters, Les Bijoux de la Castafiore is for Hergé his swan song and his last masterpiece. Critical success more than popular, it is nonetheless the most translated album of the series, especially in regional languages. It has also been the subject of many adaptations, whether for radio, theater or opera.