Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Quino, on the Funny Side of Freedom

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Quino, on the Funny Side of Freedom

Article excerpt

"I don't believe humour can alter anything, but sometimes it can be the little grain of sand that acts as a catalyst to change," says Argentine cartoonist Joaquin Salvador Lavado, better known as Quino, who has been hailed as "the greatest Latin American cartoonist of the century." Born in Mendoza in 1932, he never wanted to be anything but a cartoonist and has spent a lifetime at the drawing board. He won an international reputation with his Mafalda series (see box), which shows the adult world as seen through the eyes of children. Its main character, an inquisitive girl who is always asking awkward questions and worries about world peace, has featured in ten books, which have been translated into over 20 languages and published in newspapers and magazines in many parts of the world. Burnt out by the pressure of having to come up with new ideas every week, Quino decided to stop drawing Mafalda in 1973, and spend more time on other projects that give free rein to the caustic humour that has always been his ha llmark. Meticulously executed in black and white and packed with telling details, his drawings focus on power relationships, social inequalities and environmental degradation. In short, on all kinds of issues that, as he readily admits, "have nothing funny about them."

How would you define your brand of humour?

I don't think my cartoons are the sort that make people laugh their heads off. I tend to use a scalpel rather than tickle the ribs. I don't go out of my way to be humorous; it's just something that comes out of me. I'd like to be funnier, but as you get older you become less amusing and more incisive.

Your books have been published to great acclaim in France, Greece, Italy, China and Portugal. Does this mean that humour is universal?

I think so. Local connotations vary of course, above all in political humour. But a joke can be just as relevant to Franco 's Spain as to Fidel's Cuba or the military regimes of Latin America. As for jokes about food, the kind of things we say about meat in Argentina can be transposed to rice in Japan. I've heard it said that a North American actor became so enamoured of a certain form of Japanese humour that he decided to learn Japanese and export it to the United States. When a Japanese joke mentions cherry pie, he talks about pizza instead so that his audience can get the point. But the humour works the same.

You have never managed to make a breakthrough in the English-speaking world. Aren't you interested in that particular market? …

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