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Quino at Paris Book Fair: ‘Mafalda c’est moi’

Wearing the Legion of Honour, Quino spoke to audiences at the Paris Book Fair, accompanied by his editors Daniel Divinsky (left), Kuki Miler (c) and Argentine Culture Secretary Jorge Coscia.

The creator of the popular comics character meets hundreds of fans in France

Around 1,000 people gathered last weekend at the Paris Book Fair to meet Quino, who entertained everyone with his dry sense of humour: “Today, Mafalda would be concerned about human stupidity,” he said.

Joaquín Salvador Lavado, who recently celebrated 60 years of his cartoonist career, was received by the French public as a hero worthy of his Paris tribute. The creator of Mafalda — who has turned into an iconic image of this edition of the Paris Book Fair — was also decorated by the France’s ambassador in Argentina, Jean-Michel Casa, with the illustrious Legion of Honour.

“When I was a kid, I would read that someone had received the Legion of Honour and I would feel such envy,” the 81-year old cartoonist, who was accompanied to Paris by his wife Alicia and his Argentine editors Kuki Miler and Daniel Divinsky, told his eager audience on Saturday. “I would say to myself: maybe, if I behave well enough, I’ll get it someday. I’m more excited than I could say.”

Warmly welcomed at the Paris Book Fair, Quino was repeatedly applauded while he talked to fans, many of whom had to remain standing in the Grande Scène, the fair’s largest meeting space.

The gathering was hosted by ActuaBD’s editor Didier Pasarmonik and French cartoonist Zep — the creator of the popular comic series Titeuf. “Can anyone become a cartoonist?” Didier asked and Quino replied: “No, you’ve got to have something, I don’t know what but you’ve got to have it. When I started publishing and I needed to know what humour was, I would read Freud, but then I realized that if you’re steering a boat, you’re not asking yourself what the sea looks like every single day, you just ride the waves. There’s a certain compulsion for knowing what humour is but not what anguish is,” Quino said.

When asked about his formula for success with his little cartoon-superstar, Quino said the “audience has to explore the Mafalda phenomenon throughout the world.” The popular cartoonist said his work sells “especially in Latin-American countries, in Spain, in Portugal, while the rest of Europe ignores it completely. As the meeting’s host insisted in knowing what is Mafalda’s Argentine core, Quino replied tersely in French: “Moi.”

The comic strips featuring Mafalda were published between 1964 and 1973, when Quino said he had to stop because “at the time there were death squads drawing blood and Mafalda couldn’t speak about that, so I avoided speaking about that as well. I should have left Argentina but life in exile is always such a trial.”

“I never wondered how Mafalda would be like at 50. She’s a comic strip character, not a real person,” Quino said after being repeatedly asked about Mafalda’s life. However, there was a question that spurred Quino into replying dryly: to “What would Mafalda’s main concern be in 2014?” the cartoonist immediately retorted: “Human stupidity.”

In his discusión with the French audience, Quino described himself as “anticlerical,” declared his undying love for the Cuban Revolution and even confessed drawing inspiration from the Old Testament for some of his works. “It includes everything: corruption, death, love, every single human attitude is featured there,” Quino told his audience.

Talking about crossing the 60-year mark as a professional cartoonist, Quino was requested to sum up his career. With the same humour-infused humility, the cartoonist replied: “I wanted to be Picasso. I’m happy with Mafalda as a result, but it’s not such a big deal after all.”

Herald with Tèlam

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