Asterix and the Banquet (1965)

Le tour de Gaule

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Satire directed against used-car salesmen and the French postal service.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Ulna and Radius: Honeymooning Roman aristocrats.
  • Nervus Illnus: Chariot Breakdown Man.
  • Fishfingus and Spongefingus: Roman Guards.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • First book of phase Kessler calls “The Burnished Cauldron” indicating a more-polished drawing style.
  • Fulliautomatix’s first appearance – he looks nothing like his later incarnations (p5).
  • Dogmatix introduced gradually through the book – he latches onto A&O; outside a Paris butcher’s shop (p9) and follows them around unseen. Obelix eventually notices him right at the end of the adventure (p44).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • The Lugdunum Mail chariot carries the logo of the modern French postal service (p20).
  • All will identify with the traffic-jam sequence as the heroes visit a very 60s French Riviera replete with beach-hugging sunbathers on package-tours (p25).
  • A cart on the Gaulish Riviera carries a license plate and a ‘G’ sticker for ‘Gaulish’ (p25).
  • This sequence is a reference to Marcel Pagnol’s three films Marius, Fanny and Cesar. (Kessler).
  • Not even a Roman patrol will dare interrupt the deciding throw of some Gauls’ game of Boule – it could indeed lead to the composition of a national anthem (p28).

Non-PC World

Lots of affectionate digs at contemporary French regional traits – many of which will be lost to the English-speaking reader, e.g. the tendency of Normandy residents to offer ambiguous answers to questions.

Obelix has a tender side…

A buxom landlady appraises Obelix with the words ‘At last a Gaul who isn’t skinny’. The rotund-one blushes for two full frames (p28).

Classic Pegleg…

Victrix causa diis placuit sed victa catoni = The victorious cause pleases the gods, but the conquered one pleases Cato (Lucian, Bellum Civile I.128).

Redbeard’s Retort…

“I don’t go overboard for your sense of humour. You’d better go about looking for a new job!”

Good or what?

Good.

For all that the story seems to depend on some very insular references, this is wonderful stuff. It lacks the comedic brilliance of some later stories, but is nonetheless carried along by a tremendous chauvinistic joy de vivre about the Gauls’ home country. Best Asterix book up to that point.