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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Asterix conquers the Russians
Asterix
Asterix: United States are next on his itinerary
Asterix and the Goths has gone on sale for the first time in Russian, and five more adventures are due out in the autumn.

The translations are being distributed by Emmanuel Durand, an independent French publisher based in Moscow.


It's a bit of a gamble as there's no tradition for strip cartoons in Russia, and Russian readers rather look down on them as an inferior form.

Emmanuel Durand
Sales of the comics will be boosted by the film release last year of Asterix and Obelix against Caesar, which proved popular in Russia.

The film was subsequently shown on Russian television in January, leading to brisk trade in pirated videotapes and computer games.

Gamble

Durand took the plunge and translated the first Asterix book when translator friends told him how they had translated several Asterix stories for the benefit of their own children.

Gerard Depardieu as Obelix
Russian readers are disappointed that the cartoons do not resemble the film characters.
Durand admitted: "It's a bit of a gamble as there's no tradition for strip cartoons in Russia, and Russian readers rather look down on them as an inferior form."

He added: "However they loved the film, and its idea of a brave, beleaguered people holding out against invading forces."

Asterix is an inhabitant of a tiny village in Ancient Gaul, constantly repelling invasions from pirates and Romans, and going on adventures to distant lands accompanied by the dull-witted but loveable man-mountain Obelix.

Minorities

Albert Uderzo, one of the cartoon's creators, said he is "well aware there is a political side to Asterix, all the more so since it is based on reality: the Roman colonisation is a historical fact".

Asterix "has been adopted by minorities the world over", Uderzo said.

Durand plans to eventually publish the full canon of Asterix books. The next is Asterix and Cleopatra, being published to coincide with the release of a new Asterix film. Another four will follow in September.

The first 5000-strong print run of Asterix and the Goths has been selling well. In the Russian publishing industry a run of 3,000 is respectable.

Some readers are however disappointed that the cartoon figures do not resemble Christian Clavier and Gerard Depardieu, the actors who played them in the recent film.

National favourite

A survey in February revealed that Asterix was the favourite cartoon character of 53% of French people.

The first Asterix book, Asterix the Gaul, was published in 1961, two years after the character appeared as a strip in the weekly comic Pilote.

Around 300 million Asterix books have been sold since. The 31 adventures have been translated into 80 languages, including regional dialects.

One of the cartoon's creators, René Goscinny, died in 1977, but is still credited on the book covers.

The success of Asterix in Russia means that Uderzo has only one remaining wish - to see his creation win over the American market, which has so far remained immune to his pint-sized charms.

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | Reviews
Asterix acts up
15 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Asterix punches his way back
14 Mar 01 | Europe
Asterix back in the bookshops
04 Feb 99 | Entertainment
The magic runs out for Asterix
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