Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Asterix the Gaul: Asterix and the Banquet

By Juliette Harrison

It's been years since I read any Asterix the Gaul, which my parents sometimes used to buy for my brother (in English) when we went to France on holiday. What I'd remembered most was the wonderfully punny names - the old man Geriatrix, Poisonus Fungus, Getafix the druid and so on (there are lots of jokes about drugs around, a clear sign of Asterix's '60s origins!*). Asterix and Obelix themselves, of course, are designed as literal 'footnotes in history', asterisk and obelisk, an idea I love, since I always enjoy stories about the minor characters and side stories of history, even entirely fictional ones like these two.
For those unfamilir with the comics, Asterix and Obelix live in a Gaulish village that has held out alone against the Romans following the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar.

This is largely thanks to the magic potion brewed by Getafix, which allows our two heroes to beat up entire legions without breaking a sweat (though Obelix doesn't need to take any, as he fell into a cauldron-full of the stuff as a child). The village is in northern Brittany, and Obelix has a regular job as a menhir delivery man. The translations are excellent, mostly successfully translating the puns and Christmas-cracker level jokes into something appropriate (you only occasionally find something that isn't quite as effective as English).

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