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<strong>Tintin and the secret of literature</strong>

Tom McCarthy <em>Granta, 240pp, £14.99</em>

While it is true that the world has not exactly been crying out for a detailed dissection of the Tintin books by the Belgian comic artist Hergé , the intrepid reporter is enjoying a comeback. Tom McCarthy's analysis precedes a big-budget motion picture directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, which coincides with Hergé's centenary in 2007.

But this is no ordinary analysis. McCarthy's book deals with the most profound issues currently facing literature and philosophy, offers insight into Hergé's motivation and inspiration, and argues that his Tintin oeuvre is a work of genius, albeit one that is "dark", "shocking" and "catastrophic". You may be unconvinced, but the passion with which the case is presented will affect all but the most cynical reader.

The main problem with the book is: who is actually going to read it? For most Tintin fans, the psychoanalytical, etymological and political musings (to name but a few) may appear excessive. McCarthy is obviously a very erudite chap, but his arguments too often create as many riddles as they solve. For anyone unfamiliar with Tintin's adventures, or who would rather not think of the opera singer Bianca Castafiore's emerald as a clitoris, this might not make ideal poolside reading.

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