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January 22, 2013
Third and final part of the little French-German blogpost trilogy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty.
Chenez is one of these cartoonists who are capable in no time to condense the essence of an event into a drawing, brilliantly highlighting its humorous, sometimes ridiculous aspects. And he is one of the rare masters of his craft who has devoted the largest part of his work to commenting on contemporary sport. For a quarter of a century already his cartoons have figured prominently in L’Equipe, many of them excellent editorials without words. Not surprising that this blog has already abused of his kind authorisation to use his drawings for non-commercial, purely academic purposes.
Caricatures, of course, use stereotypical shortcuts in order to be understood as quickly as possible by the largest number of readers. Eleven or twelve years ago, I asked Bernard Chenez whether we could have a talk about the stereotypes he used for national football teams. He welcomed me very nicely in his office at L’Equipe and, being confronted with a series of his own cartoons from previous world cups, admitted to being surprised how often he had actually given in to the temptation of always referring to the same, sometimes ‘cheap’ images: the Brazilian forward, obviously, portrayed as Samba dancer and the German defender, just as obviously, in a ‘Panzer’. Concerning the latter, he said he wouldn’t use it any more, simply because it was utterly outdated. And he kept his promise: at the 2002 World Cup, German coach Rudi Völler was no longer driving a tank, but a … Mercedes!
While we were talking about football’s paradoxical power of both reinforcing national identities and bringing people together, he noticed that I had his latest “review of the sports year” with me and asked me to hand it to him to sign it. And, keeping the conversation, he drew the little cartoon below, adding a gently surrealist, but still meaningful text.