The demon cherub soon attracted a motley crew of genial freaks and terminal dropouts. Jean-Pierre Bouyxou, the one-time editor of a popular pornographic publication and renowned B-movie pundit, ranked high among them in terms of inspiration. Anatole Atlas, whose fifteen minutes of fame occured in 1972 when he showered Marxist egghead Jacques Lacan in pâtisseries flamandes , was another early convert. Jan Bucquoy, the eccentric agent provocateur whose misdeeds are legion, often lent a helping hand. In 1991, he burned a Magritte, framed the ashes, and entitled the new work of art Les Cendres de Magritte ! He is also the founder of two rather unusual museums : the first, for some reason, is devoted exclusively to male underwear; the second is the infamous Musée de la Femme where one can visit a collection of live, naked women of all ages, colours and sizes (which may, or may not, have inspired Tilda Swinton's stint as the sleeping Serpentine Gallery beauty a few years back). Besides editing a satirical newspaper ( Belge ) which is regularly banned, Bucquoy is the author of countless obscene Tintin books (in which Snowy the dog is invariably buggered by his bequiffed master), and the director of bittersweet, autobiographical films like La Vie sexuelle des Belges (1995).


With his mates, some of whom ended up as inmates, Godin set about gatecrashing the world of politics. In 1969, for instance, a mass meeting of Walloon nationalists degenerated into a western-style saloon rumble, when the agitators started brandishing their flag : the skull and crossbones.

Georges Tutukjian's undelivered speech on psychoanalysis - three years and many acts of sabotage later - is another typical example. No sooner had the mandarin appeared on stage, than he was joined by Anatole Atlas who argued convincingly, and in no uncertain terms, that psychoanalysis was a load of tripe because it aimed at reintegrating sick people into a society which had made them sick in the first place. The heckler was immediately pounced upon by a couple of burly bouncers and forcibly ejected from the auditorium. Taking advantage of the pandemonium, Noël Godin jumped on stage and launched into a hearty, albeit slightly out-of-tune rendition of "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Stalinist wolf ?" The doctored lyrics - establishing a parallel between Uncle Joe and Hitler through a reference to Tex Avery's lupine portait of the German tyrant - proved well ahead of their time for Belgian intellectual circles, and anathema to M. Tutukjian, a notorious hardline Communist who was one of Claude Lévi-Strauss's closest collaborators. The second heckler was consequently pounced upon by a couple of burly bouncers, and forcibly ejected from the auditorium. The speaker - who still had not been able to get a word in edgeways - then threw a primadonna wobbly, announcing that the conference was off as far as he was concerned. After protracted negotiations, he finally accepted to answer a few questions from the members of the audience. This turned out to be a big mistake, and even a grave error, on his part. The first question had a decidedly familiar ring to it : "Who's afraid of the big, bad Stalinist wolf ?" enquired Godin (whom Bucquoy had let in again through an emergency exit) with the placid obstinacy of Droopy. By that time, M. Tutukjian's nerves were in shreds. He pondered the vexed question for a few seconds, getting increasingly hot and bothered by the minute. Suddenly, he got up, pushed his way past a couple of burly bouncers, and left the auditorium almost in tears.


Spoof political tracts were also circulated to great effect. One of them, inciting children to take up arms against the adulterated adult world, was distributed outside many Italian schools by people disguised as the cat and fox out of Pinocchio . Another, printed on the day Baader, Meinhof and Ensslin were "suicided" in jail, threatened assorted figures of authority with the most appalling, grand-guignolesque tortures as a retaliatory measure.

Godin was a scrupulous tractarian. When he travestied the tracts of established political parties, he always made sure that they were strikingly true to life. He was literally obsessed with linguistic and typographic punctilios : everything had to look just right, down to the slightest scintilla of detail. When the Soviet forces invaded Czechoslovakia, for instance, he produced a handbill on which the Belgian Communists invited the population to demonstrate its joy. And demonstrate, it did : an angry mob stormed the party's headquarters, smashing it to smithereens.


Godin's extra-curricular activities were just as potent. Isolating the Consul's comment, in Under the Volcano , that "Everything is to be found in Peter Rabbit ," he reinterpreted Beatrix Potter's classic in the light of Malcolm Lowry's ("Jeannot Lapin au-dessous du volcan," Etudes Comparées 2, 1970).

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