In 2007, the Editions Albert René published Asterix and the Magic Carpet simultaneously in Arabic and Hebrew at the Paris Book Fair offering a really exotic eye-opener for our Gaulish readers!
As you flip through Albert Uderzo's drawings in reverse, it's easy to feel how Obelix did when standing before the Acropolis or Egyptian hieroglyphics…
At the same time, the Israeli publishing house, Modan, released the Hebrew translation of Asterix and the Magic Carpet in Israel. Given the success of this edition, a new album will be published in 2008: Asterix and the Black Gold.
Asterix and Obelix in the land of Palestine
Asterix and the Black Gold in Hebrew is rich in meaning and significance, as our heroes Asterix and Obelix travel through the land of Palestine, discovering on their way the little village of Bethlehem and silencing the wails of the spy Dubbelosix in front of the Wailing Wall…
To prepare for this album, Albert Uderzo went on a field trip so as to be able to faithfully recreate the local flora and thus respect the surroundings - "something you cannot make up". "The scenery has to appear authentic, it lends more credibility to the story and that in turn adds depth to the characters. And what's extraordinary is that the scenery can change totally over a distance as small as 40 miles" he revealed in an interview given to Tribune Juive magazine..
Fascinated by the "incredible scenery" before his eyes, Albert Uderzo took a great many photos which he used when drawing. Similarly, the splendid view we see of Jerusalem 2000 years ago was inspired by his discovery of a model of the old city in the time of King Solomon's reign.
Albert Uderzo also visited Massada, "where a group of Jews committed mass suicide to avoid being taken prisoner by the Romans, led by General Flavius Silva, leaving just one behind… to bear witness". Whilst the struggle of the Jewish people against the Roman occupier is one of the key themes of the album, this historic episode which took place 20 years following Asterix's trip is not mentioned, in order to preserve a certain coherence in the dates. Impressed by the surroundings, the author nevertheless depicted part of the large rocky outcrop of Massada on the album cover.
More than anything, the Asterix and the Black Gold album is a tribute to Uderzo's departed friend René Goscinny, to whom the character Saül Ben Epishul bears a striking resemblance. An anecdote of Albert Uderzo's from his book Albert Uderzo se raconte, gives us some insight into the emotional power behind this tribute: "Not very long before René left us, my wife and I spent several days in René and Gilbert Goscinny's apartment in Cannes. And one morning I astonished René, telling him about how I had dreamt that I was hovering and flying over Jerusalem, bathed in golden sunlight under a brilliant blue sky, even though I had yet to visit this city. When I later visited for real, it was as if I recognised everything." Today things have come full circle, as 30 years on Asterix and the Black Gold will see its Hebrew title amended to "Jerusalem of Gold".
Surely inspired by the adventure of our heroes in the land of Palestine, the first Hebrew translations of Asterix albums appeared in the 1980s. Nine Asterix adventures were published back then by the publishing house Dahlia Pelled : Asterix the Gaul, Asterix and Cleopatra, Asterix at the Olympic Games, Asterix in Britain, The Mansions of the Gods, Asterix and the Cauldron, Obelix and co., Asterix and the Roman Agent and Asterix and the Great Crossing. You can see all the Asterix albums in Hebrew in our Asterix albums translation exchange.
Asterix in Hebrew: an analysis of character names by Exlibris