Guten tag! Satire mag goes Ger­man

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

THERE are no prizes for guess­ing whose face fea­tures on the poster for the first Ger­man edi­tion of Char­lie Hebdo which will ap­pear on news stands in Ber­lin and Vi­enna to­mor­row.

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel will be pic­tured in a mo­ment of quiet con­tem­pla­tion read­ing the satir­i­cal weekly on the toi­let.

“Char­lie Hebdo, the news­pa­per that re­laxes,” the leg­end reads.

The ir­rev­er­ent French phe­nom­e­non, which was the vic­tim of a bloody ji­hadist at­tack in Jan­uary 2015, hopes to con­tinue its re­nais­sance with a Ger­man ver­sion of its provoca­tive mix of no-holds­barred car­toons and bit­ing satir­i­cal col­umns.

Ger­mans bought 70,000 copies of Char­lie Hebdo’s “sur­vivors’ edi­tion”, which ap­peared one week after last year’s mas­sacre in the magazine’s Paris of­fices, and the French edi­tion al­ready sells 1000 copies a week in Ger­many.

Its edi­tor the car­toon­ist Riss – who was shot in the shoul­der dur­ing the at­tack – has been work­ing on a Ger­man-lan­guage ver­sion for six months.

He has also drawn the poster for the first is­sue with Merkel re­splen­dent in pink read­ing a Char­lie Hebdo which won­ders whether she would be able to gov­ern both Ger­many and France at the same time.

The cover she is hold­ing on her throne is one orig­i­nally drawn by the weekly’s mur­dered for­mer edi­tor, Charb, who was gunned down in the at­tack in which 12 peo­ple died.

“I al­ways thought that we would be able to ex­port Char­lie Hebdo,” Riss told AFP.

“There is a real cu­rios­ity in Ger­many about what we are do­ing, which is not the case for in­stance in Bri­tain, Spain or Por­tu­gal,” he added.

Its 200,000-copy launch in Ger­many is cer­tainly am­bi­tious – al­most the same num­ber as are printed in France ev­ery week.

“Un­for­tu­nately lots of peo­ple out­side France dis­cov­ered Char­lie Hebdo be­cause of the at­tacks when it is sup­posed to be a magazine that makes you laugh,” Riss said.

And the car­toon­ist said he was wary of the weekly’s 46-year his­tory be­ing re­duced to the at­tacks.

“It is true that an im­por­tant as­pect of our editorial iden­tity is our at­tach­ment to the free­dom to crit­i­cise re­li­gion, but Char­lie Hebdo is not just that,” he in­sisted.

“If we suc­ceed in de­vel­op­ing a read­er­ship abroad, we are also mak­ing al­lies,” said Riss, whose real name is Lau­rent Souris­seau.

“Those al­lies will help us get our mes­sage out and be un­der­stood,” he added.

De­spite its many fans and sup­port­ers, Char­lie Hebdo has never had a short­age of en­e­mies.

It first be­came a tar­get of Is­lamist ex­trem­ists after pub­lish­ing car­toons of the Prophet Mo­hammed.

Most Mus­lims con­sider por­tray­ing the prophet in im­ages to be blas­phe­mous. But it also reg­u­larly out­rages Chris­tians, draw­ing crit­i­cism from the Vat­i­can, as well as from the French po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment.

Nor did its hu­mour go down well in Italy after the town of Ama­trice was dev­as­tated by an earth­quake in Au­gust. Its “macabre and tact­less” pasta-themed car­toons on the quake, in­clud­ing one por­tray­ing vic­tims crushed un­der lay­ers of lasagna, prompted the town to sue.

Italy’s In­te­rior Min­is­ter An­gelino Al­fano was even more forth­right in his fury, telling the car­toon­ists where they “could stick their pen­cils”.

Char­lie Hebdo is keep­ing un­der wraps which Ger­man sa­cred cows it will take to the slaugh­ter.

Its 16-page Ger­man ver­sion is mostly a trans­la­tion of the French edi­tion but with some con­tent writ­ten specif­i­cally for a Ger­man au­di­ence.

Riss said he hoped it would in­spire young Ger­man car­toon­ists to dare to start draw­ing for it.

But such are the se­cu­rity con­cerns that the edi­tion’s young fe­male edi­tor – who heads a 12-per­son team – is work­ing un­der a pseu­do­nym, Minka Sch­nei­der.

“Our big­gest chal­lenge isn’t Ger­man hu­mour,” she said, “it is that the car­toon cul­ture [from which Char­lie Hebdo comes] doesn’t re­ally have an equiv­a­lent here.”

Ger­many al­ready has two ma­jor satir­i­cal month­lies, Ti­tanic and Eu­len­spiegel, but their hu­mour is dif­fer­ent to Char­lie Hebdo’s, she said.

Riss is re­al­is­tic about the Ger­man edi­tion’s long-term prospects. “It’s a test, an ex­per­i­ment” but he ar­gued that the magazine’s brand of hu­mour was “uni­ver­sal”, with part of its web­site al­ready avail­able in English.

Nev­er­the­less, he ad­mit­ted that of­ten for­eign­ers didn’t how to take the magazine’s of­ten vi­cious edge.

“Char­lie Hebdo is kind of an ex­tra- ter­res­trial ... Its hu­mour is a lit­tle cyn­i­cal, dis­il­lu­sioned. There is a pes­simism in our draw­ings but we try to laugh about it,” he said.

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