Mafalda and me

July is Spanish Literature Month at Caravana de Recuerdos and Winston’s Dad Blog. It’s an opportunity for me to write a billet about Mafalda. I’m not sure comics qualify as literature for this event but I suppose Richard and Stu will forgive me. Mafalda is the little girl you see on my gravatar and some of my personal posts.

She’s very famous in France and her albums are available in most bookshops. Her father is Quino, an Argentinean cartoonist. Quino’s comics were published from 1964 to 1973 in three different magazines or newspapers. (Primera Plan, El Mundo and Siete Dias Illustrados). Then Quino decided to put an end to it, thinking his concept was worn out.

Mafalda is a Charlie Brown with a strong political awareness. It’s a flavour of Argentina and the world in the 1960s. As a character, Mafalda is both a child and an adult. As a child, she goes to school, plays with friends and asks endless questions to her parents. She hates soup and Quino uses it as comical material. Once you see Mafalda sitting at the dinner table and when her mother brings her a plate full of soup, she tells her: “Perhaps it’s sad, Rachel, but in such cases Mom is barely a pseudonym”. This is Mafalda and her brother Guille:  

Mafalda:What are you doing with the phone, Guille?Guille:Me El CordobesMafalda: El Cordobes? Where’s the bull?

Her adult side tends to ask tricky questions to her poor father, make sarcastic remarks about the news and point out the adults’ inconsistencies and flaws. Living in the 1960s, she worries about the Cold War, the Vietnam War, peace in general and the state of the world in particular. 

Mother:What are you doing, Mafalda?Mafalda:Nothing, Mom. Just contemplating Humanity.Mother: Humanity?

Mafalda also shows a certain side of the Argentinean society and its evolution. Mafalda’s father buys a car (a 2CV) and the whole neighbourhood raves about it. Mafalda eventually gets a telly but soon criticizes the programs. She dances on the Beatles’ songs. Mafalda’s mother rants about price increases and her daughter pities her for being a stay-at-home mother, spending her days doing chores. (a nice touch of feminism) The family turtle is named Bureaucracy.

Mafalda’s friends are stereotypes: Susanita is obsessed with getting married, having children and settling down. She’s the conservative side, representing the bourgeoisie. Manolito’s goal in life is to make money and expand his father’s grocery store into a chain of supermarket. His model is American capitalism. Miguelito and Felipe are typical children. I have a fondness for Felipe. He’s a dreamer, reading comics with superheroes. He hates school and he’s the one to bring Mafalda back to childhood when she’s too absorbed by politics. Her games are tainted with political themes, like here:

Miguelito:What are you playing at?Mafalda: I’m Freedom, lightening the world with her light of … 15 Watts.

 All in all, with his regular pictures of the society he lives in, Quino managed to capture the essence of a time and spiced it with universal, poetic and philosophical comments. Like here: 

Mafalda:Good morning Sir. I would like you to make me the key of happiness.Old man:Of course, dear. Give me your template.Mafalda, leaving:Clever, the old man. 

I absolutely love Mafala for her sharp tongue, her cynicism, her lucidity. And did I mention it? It is FUNNY. Not stretch-a-smile funny but laughing-out-loud funny. So I was a bit puzzled when a friend asked me why I chose a chubby girl as an avatar. He thought I should have put the photo of a gorgeous model, since I didn’t put mine. But I’d rather be represented by this smart and funny little girl than by a living skeleton doing the cat walk on a stage for a living.

If you want to hear more about her, here is an article by Umberto Eco (sorry, it’s in French).

PS: I hope everything looks fine on your computer. It does on mine. I did my best

  1. July 3, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Great post! Love the unexpected.

    Like

    • July 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      She’s worth discovering.

      Like

  2. July 4, 2012 at 3:23 am

    I’d never heard of this one before, but it looks good 🙂 Reminds me a little of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’…

    Like

    • July 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      I read a bit of Calvin & Hobbes years ago. I don’t remember it to deal with politics and societal themes. Does it?

      You can read in French, you’re lucky, if you want to discover Mafalda, you can…

      Like

  3. July 4, 2012 at 3:25 am

    P.S. Loved the Eco thoughts too 🙂

    Like

  4. July 4, 2012 at 7:14 am

    I think it’s a good idea to include a comic.
    I was aware of her because I have a Spanish colleague who has a daily Mafalda calendar.
    I love the name of the family turtle. 🙂

    Like

    • July 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Lucky you, you could read it in Spanish. (or in French, it’s probably easier to find)

      Funny name, isn’t it? Different from having a Caroline as a turtle 🙂

      Like

  5. July 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    this is new to me too ,I always thpught it was the girl from snoopy your avitar looks similar ,I would love to read more of this looks fun ,all the best stu

    Like

    • July 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      It’s extremely funny.
      French bloggers and Twitter followers usually know who my avatar is; Mafalda is well-known. I knew she’s not that famous in Britain or America. I’ve wanted to write a post about it for a long time.
      It was an opportunity.

      Like

  6. July 5, 2012 at 1:48 am

    I’ll be honest, when I first saw the image, I too thought it was of one of the Charlie Brown characters. I’m not a big comic fan–agree on the tortoise name. Manuela Saenz, the lover of Simon Bolivar named her dogs after Bolivar’s enemies.

    Like

    • July 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      She’s based on Peanuts characters, according to the history of her creation. (I have an album about it.)
      I know someone who named his dog after the neighbor he hated.

      Like

  7. July 5, 2012 at 5:24 am

    What a nice–and humorous–surprise to see a Mafalda post for Spanish Lit Month, Emma! I didn’t see that one coming although perhaps I should have from your avatar. The ironic thing about you wondering whether “comics qualify as literature for this event” (in my mind, anything goes!) is that I had just finished reading something by Sergio Pitol this week when I first saw your post. Pitol is a Mexican who won the Cervantes Prize for literature (something like a lifetime achievement award for Spanish language writers) a few years back, and the chapter I read by him had to do with his disdain for any type of snobbery in literature and his love for a Mexican comic book writer whose work he has enjoyed for years and years. To make a long story short, the timing of your post and that chapter by Pitol I read could not have been more perfect. Merci beaucoup!

    Like

    • July 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Of course you know who Mafalda is. Is Quino still read in Argentina?

      Personnally, I rate him as high as a literary writer.

      Like

  8. July 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Everyone I know in France seems to be knee-deep in comic books, but I’d yet to hear of Mafalda. Great post!

    Like

    • July 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      Is “comic book” the only word for “bande dessinée” or is it only for funny ones? And when do you say “graphic novel”?
      There’s a strong tradition of bande dessinée here and of course in French speaking Belgium.
      Maybe you’ll try a Mafalda next time you’re in France.

      Like

  9. July 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    What a lovely post! I’d never heard of Mafalda before. I struggled to follow the Eco piece, though what I could read was interesting in the contrasts drawn with Charlie Brown (which this clearly references).

    I tend to think of graphic novels as one of two things: (a) a comic created and intended to be read as a single volume, rather than as a monthly (or other period) title. So, Alan Moore’s From Hell is a graphic novel because it’s intended to be read as a single work and was published as one. The Fantastic Four is a comic, because while it may be collected in bound editions of multiple issues it’s primarily published and intended to be read in serialised monthly installments; or (b) a posh term for comics for people too embarassed to admit they read them.

    Personally I just tend to talk of reading comics, but graphic novel is sometimes a vaguely useful term if I’m talking about someone like Joe Sacco who’s work doesn’t remotely fit with the serialised approach taken by most comics.

    Like

    • July 12, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      Thanks Max for the explanations. Now you all now my avatar better!

      So Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is a graphic novel and Astérix is comics.

      Like

  10. July 13, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Precisely, Persepolis is a textbook example of a graphic novel, and Asterix of a comic.

    Like

  11. April 27, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Beautiful post, Emma! Thanks for telling us about Mafalda. I thought she was a gravatar you created yourself. Your description of her makes me think of Pippi Longstocking. I would love to read a Mafalda comic sometime. It was interesting to read your and Max’ conversations on comics and graphic novels. I think when the term graphic novel was first used, it was probably used to indicate serious stories written for grown up readers in comic form. But these days it is hard to tell the difference. In my own case I read all kinds of comics – both those written supposedly for children and grownups – and sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference because sometimes children’s comics have profound things in them.

    Like

    • May 1, 2014 at 2:06 am

      I’m not sure Mafalda is available in English. It’s a shame, really. I wonder why she’s so famous in France.
      I think any French blogger would recognise my gravatar.

      Like

  12. May 21, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Knowing that you like Mafalda is amazing… I am argentine and have followed Quino since my I was a teenager… I actually saw your avatar, concerning the Bash Awrads on Twitter and inmediatly followed you… I would later on find out that you also have an excellent blog!… sending best wishes. Aquileana 😀

    Like

    • May 21, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Hello,
      Mafalda is extremely famous in France. The albums were translated in the 80s and it remains a success. Something about her wry humour suits the French mind.
      I hope I’ll get to see her mural in the Buenos Aires subway one day.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. December 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm
  2. April 27, 2014 at 6:38 am
  3. July 20, 2016 at 9:41 pm
  4. October 31, 2020 at 4:03 pm

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