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A lot of Gaul

Asterix on Top! By Goscinny and Uderzo. Hodder Pounds 14.99

The lingua franca in which discussions of Asterix the Gaul should be conducted is dog Latin eked out with basic French. Epithets are demanded, and the more onomatopoeic the better, as the action heats up and pax romana is frappe by biffs et schtonnks et poffs et chtronks.

But translators have a function, and the contribution of Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge to the six adventures bundled into this menhir-size volume is formidable. Such a burden of names to be redubbed (Idefix into Dogmatix, Ordralfabetix into Unhygienix) and what a dextrous mangling of the Goscinny texts into minced English.

Albert Uderzo, who is responsible for the look of Asterix, needs notranslation, and that, essentially, is why the wee Gaul with the doorknob nose and wraparound moustache is the most charismatic French warrior since Joan of Arc.

Besides being recognisable, and being backed up by such a gang of chums - ah, Obelix, whose stoutproportions exceed Fred Flintstone's and are elegant besides - Asterix enjoys such agreeable surroundings. Those sauna-style huts with thatch thick enough for igloos, those pre-Le Creuset potion pots and the purple menhirs that should have inspired Henry Moore.

Ave Asterix, his Carry On style and his fizzy sang-froid. William Feaver See book offer, below

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