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Tintin in the New World: A Romance.

For his new novel, Frederic Tuten has borrowed Tintin, the boy/man comic-strip character created sixty years ago by the Belgian artist Herge, and involved him in that sometimes most painful of transformations - from child to man. The central events of the novel take place in Machu Picchu, Peru, where Tintin has journeyed with his friend, Captain Haddock, and dog, Snowy. The single event that changes Tintin from child/cartoon character to man is a sexual encounter he has with Madame Clavdia Chauchat, a promiscuous woman who belongs to the international set Tintin has fallen in with in Machu Picchu. After losing his virginity and falling in love with Clavdia, Tintin becomes subject to such adult passions as rage and jealousy which had not been part of his innocent former life, and which lead him to play a part in the murder of Herr Pepperkorn, Clavdia's keeper, lover, and traveling companion. After committing this deed, Tintin repents, becomes a beggar to pay for his sin, and then, at the end of the novel, emerges as a holy man.

As the title of the novel indicates, this work is a romance. Tintin's quests, though they are conducted on a smaller scale, are similar to other quests one will encounter in such diverse works as The Faerie Queene, Morte d'Arthur, and David Lodge's Small World Also, echoes of Paradise Lost and Voltaire's Candide appear. Tuten introduces many of the large themes one comes across in these great works (the quest, love, betrayal, the Fall, redemption, etc.), though the small scale on which the novel is conceived limits the possibilities for developing these themes. One senses that more is needed, that this novel needs to be hundreds of pages longer for justice to be done to Tuten's ambition. But what is most impressive about Tintin in the New World is the quality of Tuten's prose. Whether he is writing in a more traditional or in a magic-realist mode, Tuten's re-creation of the life and textures of South America is excellent. Also, the quality of the writing improves as the novel goes on and achieves a climax in the beautifully rendered fall and redemption of Tintin. To be sure, this work doesn't match its ambitions, but Tuten's delightful prose makes Tintin in the New World a rewarding novel.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wall, Eamonn
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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