Asterix and the Great Divide (1980)

Le grand Fossé

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

No pretention needed: a blatant allegory of the Berlin Wall in the guise of a Romeo and Juliet pastiche.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Cleverdix: elected village chief. Old comrade-in-arms of Vitalstatistix.
  • Majestix: appointed village chief.
  • Histrionix: Cleverdix’s Adonis-like son. Basically Tragicomix from Asterix the Legionary with a moustache.
  • Melodrama: daughter to Majestix.
  • Angelica: her nurse.
  • Codfix: Majestix’s (quite literally) slimy advisor. The piscine-perfume usually attributed to Unhygienix is effectively tranferred to him for the course of this book.
  • Sourpus: legionary.
  • Infectius Virus: decurian.
  • Umbrageous Cumunolingus: centurian.
  • Schizophrenix (common misuse of ‘Schizophrenia’ to mean ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’): neutral villager, i.e. the divide has been dug straight through his hut.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • First book of phase Kessler dubs “The Real and the Cartoon” – marked by a differentiation in the drawings of the complex, detailed regulars and the simple, line-drawn guest-characters.
  • Uderzo has a more supernatural/fantastical view of the Asterix world than Goscinny. This is reflected in the multiple magic potions of this story. (Kessler)
  • Extension of unsubtle-shield-gag, as Vitalstatistix places his shield on a trolley. Obviously a futile gesture (p6).
  • Fishfights (pp7-8 and 12).
  • Unsubtle-shield-gag, sans-trolley (p12).
  • Romans, for the first time, seem obsessed with slave/concubine ownership (pp 14-15).
  • Roman legionaries again form a trade union (see The Mansions of the Gods (pp15 and 28).
  • Getafix seemingly carries around a combined restoration/forgetfulness elixir (p16).
  • Obelix’s childhood immersion seems to have endowed his hands with sharp edges (p22).
  • Getafix carries off much the same potion-in-Roman-camp ploy as he did in Asterix the Gaul (p23).
  • Slightly contrived plot-development re. Getafix’s strength-potions and combined restoration/forgetfullness elixirs not being compatible (p31).
  • The rivals invoke the Asterix and the Big Fight method of chieftal appointment (pp 41-42).
  • A, O & Getafix return home to a fishfight-in-progress (p 44).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • Cleverdix and Majestix represent the elected versus divine-right leadership debate (p1).
  • The old guy’s apple tree shows a natural contempt for political divides (p2).
  • The neutral stance doesn’t work (p2).
  • Cleverdix offers a socialist manifesto (p4).
  • More self-reference: Obelix responds to the previous frame-caption (p6).
  • Fishfight seems to have therapeutic purpose of uniting village when Romans are scarce (p8).
  • Majestix anticipates his daughter joining ‘Classical women’s Lib’ (p9).
  • Name of god Vesta explicitly linked to unappetising dehydrated “curries”.
  • Besotted Histrionix imagines face of Angelica in smoke of village’s chimneys.
  • Fulliautomatix keeps hammer very much on standby (p13).
  • There is, of necessity, so such book as “Hymns Ancient and Modern” yet written (p14).
  • Getafix’s bill of fare is replete with punning and dramatic irony (p22).
  • Symbolic placement of Getafix’s cauldron to represent the village’s re-unification (p29).
  • Re-united village devises one-way traffic system (p 43).
  • Histrionix’s village has a melodious bard providing music at the banquet at the equivalent place of Cacofonix’s tree (p43).
  • Cacofonix suspended from tree, going eye-to-eye with its resident owl (p44).

Those Romeo and Juliet comparisons…

… are begun but not sufficiently followed through to qualify for an ‘in full…’ As far as they go, though…

  • There are two lovers from rival camps.
  • Melodrama’s nurse is called Angelica, as is Juliet’s in the play. Like her she acts as go-between between the lovers (p9).
  • The paramours enjoy soirees at Angelica’s window; and the ‘what’s in a name’ speech ensues. We release that, whereas ‘Histrionix’ doesn’t fit the scansion, Shakespeare got it spot on with ‘Romeo’ (p10).

That army recruitment drive…

  • ‘Back at the recruiting office they told us we’d get beautiful slave-girls from the countries we’d conquered’.
  • ‘Loot they said, the carrot for the donkey’.
  • ‘It’s a mans life they said’.

(p15).

Obelix has a tender side…

  • Cries up against a wall over Histrionix’s predicament, much to Dogmatix’s contempt (p13). And again (p18). And again (p44).
  • Institutes a one-man slaves revolt when his stature is appraised (p20).
  • It is always wise to avoid the use of ‘fat’ however euphemistically, around Obelix (p25).
  • Turns his customary beetroot-hue when Angelica kisses him goodbye. Dogmatix carries his huff away with him (p43).

Classic Pegleg…

The translation-would-be-redundant It’s Terra-Firma for me too (p40).

Redbeard’s Retort…

… is not annunciated: there’s just a black cloud and lightning in his thought-bubble.

Good or what?

Well … good … I suppose … Dunno though.

Like most solo Uderzo books, this is hard to call. As the illustrator of the Goscinny/Uderzo team Uderzo does not exhibit anything approaching the comic vision of Goscinny’s best texts. Then again, he is capable of producing a story that is more than respectable and illustrating it to his usual extraordinary standards (I doubt the series could have continued had it been the illustator who had died: a lot more people can write a decent narrative than can provide drawings for one). Uderzo’s jokes – in this and subsequent books – rely on past continuity to a massive extent. This either involves re-using jokes from earlier books (i.e. the legionaries’ trade-union) or extending a running gag to absurd lengths (e.g. the Vitalstatistix-shield-on-trolley joke) that don’t particularly work. He also seems obliged to include at least one instance of each running gag (fishfight, Piggywiggy, classic Pegleg etc.) per book, whereas the Goscinny/Uderzo stories were more selective. Despite that these books are valuable for the usual wit and punning (via Bell and Hockeridge) and, as I said, for Uderzo’s priceless artwork. Usually I am an advocate of successful series’ finishing on a high-point but in this instance, and despite their relative decline, I am glad that Uderzo has continued to produce Asterix.