I lived in France, for a bit, and Belgium also. I speak fluent French. I never read Charlie Hebdo because I like my comic strips to be pure humour (think Asterix, Calvin & Hobbes, Sturmtruppen) rather than laced with acerbic satire.
The thing with satire is if you’re missing some of the cultural references, and as I moved around a bit, I tended to be missing them, it’s hard to read. I mean, if you look at Waterford Whispers, and Sminky’s Shorts, you can see how much you need to understand Irish cultural references, and unspoken references at that, to understand what’s going on. So while I’d pick up magazines about knitting, crochet, surfing photography, science, current affairs, economics and food, I tended to let the satiricals alone; Canard and Charlie. Being frank about it, for me, Charlie Hebdo was a splash of colour in Relay that I didn’t actually bother picking up.
I’m not going to say I’m sorry for that. For missing out on what they’ve done for the last amount of time. I’m only going to say that for the most part, you know, no matter where you live, if you get up, go to work, you should be pretty sure that you’ll come home in the evening without the downpoint of having been shot dead just because you were a journalist or cartoonist who wrote stuff someone didn’t like. Regardless of their reasons for not liking it.
I guess I’m saying I really didn’t care too much what Charlie Hebdo published. I care a lot that they had the right to do so because that right, that’s a good right.
It’s an important right.
Of the cartoons which have sprouted up in the past few days, it is probably predictable that the one which impacted on me most was one of Uderzo’s. If you’ve not seen it, it was posted to the Asterix Twitter Feed. I really would love a print of it. I’ve no idea whether it will turn up in the comic and graphic novel shops – I suppose I could be lucky.
In the meantime, I suppose, France is a very different country today to what it was on Monday, and while you can look at that in a sombre manner, it’s also fair to say that France is a very different country every day. Each place changes just a little every day anyway, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Our lives never flatline.