Geof Cox's Xmas Image 2015
I don't feel I had any real choice about my Xmas image this year - the tragic events in Paris in January, then again last month, defined 2015 here in France. This year, it had to be Charlie Hebdo...
It's a choice not without some difficulties. Should such tragedies shadow our celebrations? But for me, the Xmas and New Year period is not only a time for relaxation and enjoyment, but also reflection on the past year and resolution for the new.
Later on we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid
The plans that we've made
Walking in a winter wonderland.
Then there's the fact that although many Xmas cartoons have appeared in Charlie Hebdo over the years, hardly any have the usual messages of comfort and joy - and most of them are obscene or offensive - usually both!
In this respect, the terrorists got it right: to Charlie Hebdo, literally nothing is sacred. It sits in a comic tradition which doesn't really exist in anglo-saxon culture - 'gouaille' in French - a sort-of Viz-does-current-affairs - which is not amenable to either the simplistic us-and-them politics of the right or the politics-by-numbers of the left (where certain words or stereotypes are automatically unacceptable, regardless of context or intention).
Often, the intention in Charlie Hebdo is precisely to shock, because it doesn't just want to make a political point - to confirm our own prejudices - but also to open questions and uncertainties on both (or many) sides of an argument.
The responses of cartoonists around the world to the Charlie Hebdo attack were wonderful and moving - but not generally in the 'gouaille' tradition. Is the drinker featured here, for example - in Charlie Hebdo's response to the November Paris massacre - symbol of the indefatigable French love of life and freedom - or it's naive frivolity in the face of terror?
Well... c'est compliqué! (If you want to know more, though, there's a wonderful website in English here.)
In any case, do have a great Xmas!