This is my review of Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix by René Goscinny,Albert Uderzo.
As a mature student of French, I read this in an attempt to understand the addiction to "les bandes dessinées" which seems to persist into adulthood even for French literature lovers. I hesitate to repeat what must be widely known – since I had grasped it without reading a single Asterix in the past – that the revered Goscinny has created a "village gaulois" populated by "irréductibles gaulois" who manage to make mincemeat of the entrenched Roman garrisons surrounding them, and fools of the occasional representative of Caesar who comes along with the intention of bringing the villagers to heel. The secret of the locals' success lies in the magic potion prepared by the venerable druid Panoramix, and the exceptional strength of the menhir delivery man, Obelisk, who never needs to take the potion since he tumbled into the brew at berth.
The ensuing tale of the wager for Asterix and Obelisk to tour France without being captured, collecting local specialities on the way as evidence, is pretty silly although amusing, partly in showing one again the French preoccupation with food – all the items collected are edible and listed with gusto at the end: "saucisse de tolosa", "huîtres et vin de burdigala" and so on.
In trying to find an equivalent story embedded in English culture I came up first with Winnie the Pooh, then thought perhaps Dad's Army would be nearer the mark. You may need to be able to associate Asterix with the nostalgia of childhood, and also be a native of France to understand the puns fully. I have at least learned the French for "port" and "starboard" and that, "Je tire ou je pointe?" refers to the game of pétanque.