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The Calculus Affair ( ) is the eighteenth of The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic comic-strip albums, written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero.

Some, such as Benoit Peeters in his book Tintin and the World of Hergé, have labelled this as the greatest of the series. The Tintin website dubs The Calculus Affair as the most "detective-like" of the whole series.


The story is set in the 1950s, several months after Tintin and his friends have returned from the Moon. Tintin and Captain Haddock are on a stroll in the countryside around Marlinspike, but are suddenly caught out by an approaching thunderstorm and rush back to the manor.

Events take a mysterious turn during the storm. Inside Marlinspike, several items of glass within the house break for no apparent reason. Then, Jolyon Wagg, an annoyingly gregarious and impolite insurance salesman, turns up uninvited to seek shelter. He claims that all the windows of his car have somehow blown to bits.

Once the storm passes, Wagg leaves, but gunshots are heard from outside, and Wagg is found hiding in the bushes. Another man is also found injured but then disappears. In the midst of the mystery, Professor Calculus, who has been working in a small house on the estate that serves as his laboratory, returns to the manor with bullet holes in his hat. Calculus, somewhat apathetic to the whole series of events, leaves the following day to attend a conference on nuclear physics in Genevamarker.

When he is gone, things grow calmer. Tintin suspects that the strange events may have been connected with Calculus, and suggests to Haddock that they have a look inside his laboratory. They find a strange sonic device and are surprised by an eastern European wearing a trenchcoat and a mask. The intruder escapes after punching and knocking out Haddock. However, Snowy bites off the trenchcoat's pocket, and two items fall out: a key and a box of balcanic cigarettes with the name of the Hotel Cornavin (where Calculus is staying in Geneva) scrawled onto it. Concerned that Calculus is in danger, Tintin and Haddock decide to follow him to Switzerlandmarker.

In Geneva, Tintin and Haddock miss Calculus at his hotel by seconds, delayed by two men dressed in the same trenchcoats as the man in the lab. They track Calculus to Nyonmarker, at the home of Professor Topolino, an expert in ultrasonics. On the way to Nyon their taxi is forced into a nearby lake by the same two men from the hotel, but they manage to get out and reach Topolino's house. Calculus's umbrella is there but he is not and Topolino is found bound and gagged in his own cellar. Topolino claims that it was Calculus's doing but after being shown his photograph he admits that the Calculus he met was not the one Tintin and Haddock know. They conclude that an impostor impersonated Calculus, imprisoned Topolino in his cellar and then kidnapped the real Calculus upon his arrival. As they come to this conclusion, the same two men who had earlier impeded Tintin and Haddock's efforts to find Calculus in Geneva blow up Topolino's house in an attempt to kill them all, but they survive nonetheless.

Tintin and Haddock conclude that the sonic device that they found in the laboratory was responsible for the breakages at Marlinspike. However, the breaking of glass is just the beginning. Calculus also discovered how to turn the device into a weapon which could destroy metal, including buildings, tanks etc. Concerned of the consequences of such a thing, he had decided to talk it over with Topolino, whom he consulted by letter while developing the device. But Topolino's manservant, a Bordurian named Boris, learned of this and informed his country's intelligence service.

It soon dawns on them that rival teams of agents from both Syldavia and Borduria have knowledge of the device and its potential. Abducted at first by Bordurians, Calculus is dramatically seized by Syldavian agents in spite of Tintin and Haddock's efforts to rescue him, which are thwarted from a long distance by none other than Wagg: while pursuing the Syldavians across Lake Genevamarker into Francemarker, Haddock tries to contact the police by radio; he instead gets through to Wagg who turns down all pleas to contact the authorities, thinking that the whole thing is a wind-up on Haddock's part. Later, when Nestor, the Marlinspike butler, tells Haddock that Calculus's lab has been robbed, Wagg again interrupts the call, dismissing the whole thing of as no importance, and preventing Haddock from getting any details on the investigation.

After being pursued by Tintin and Haddock through the Frenchmarker countryside, the Syldavians escape in a plane, with Calculus as their prisoner. However, the plane is forced down over Bordurian territory, and tension between the two nations increases. Tintin and Haddock set off for Borduria in hope of finding their friend again.

Before they set off, they again encounter the two Bordurian spies who tried to dispose of them and they in turn alert their boss, the notorious Colonel Sponsz, head of the Bordurian Secret Police. Sponsz arranges for Haddock and Tintin to be picked up at the airport of the Bordurian capital, Szohod. They are assigned two minders who restrict their movements and are taken to a luxury hotel which is full of secret listening devices. Sponsz presumably hopes to prevent them from rescuing Calculus and get information from them that will coerce him into giving the plans of the sonic device to the Bordurians.

Meanwhile, at a secret meeting of Bordurian military officials, the capability of Calculus's device is revealed: Bordurian scientists have discovered its potential to destroy glass and clay, and are conducting research using the original prototype to use it as a weapon of mass destruction.

Escaping from the hotel into the nearby Szohod Opera House, Tintin and Haddock have a run-in with Bianca Castafiore, who, by chance, is then visited by Sponsz in her dressing room. Tintin and Haddock hide in Bianca's closet, overhearing the conversation between Sponsz and Castafiore (an ironic twist of events given that it was he who tried to listen to theirs at the hotel). Sponsz reveals Calculus's location, a prison in the fortress of Bakhine, and the pressure on him to surrender his plans. If he does give them up, then he will be handed over to two officials from the Red Crossmarker, to whom he must swear that he went to the Bordurians of his own accord and gave them his plans voluntarily. Sponsz also reveals that the papers for the officials and Calculus' release are in his overcoat, hanging in the closet in which Tintin and Haddock are hiding.

Overhearing all this, Tintin and Haddock steal the papers and, disguising themselves as the two officials, obtain Calculus' release. When Sponsz is told of this he quickly raises the alarm, but the three friends manage to escape to the border in a car and later a tank. When they arrive back in Marlinspike, they find that Jolyon Wagg's family is staying there and has nearly wrecked the house. Realising the catastrophic potential of his invention, Calculus burns his plans... by lighting them with Haddock's pipe while it is situated in Haddock's mouth. Haddock's face gets mildly burned and Haddock gets very angry, calling Calculus a "jack-in-a-box". The hard-of-hearing Calculus thinks that Haddock has said "chicken pox", and tells Jolyon Wagg that Haddock is suffering from this affliction. While Wagg at first interprets it as a joke, he then remembers that chicken pox is infectious, and so he and his family leave Marlinspike.

Notable features

  • The Calculus Affair introduces the character of Jolyon Wagg, who reappears in several later adventures.

  • This is also the first story to feature Cutts the Butcher. All calls to him end up at Marlinspike Hall where Nestor and Haddock are plagued with endless orders for lamb chops and sausages. The irony is that when he tries to make a call, from whichever location, it is Haddock who gets put through to Cutts first. The driver of Cutts' van also plays an important part in the story: giving Calculus a lift to the village and unknowingly thwarting a kidnapping attempt.

  • In the crowd of day trippers camped outside the gates of Marlinspike, a caricature of Hergé himself can be spotted.

  • The graphics include accurate renditions of Genevamarker, the Hotel Cornavin, the railway station and Geneva Cointrin International Airportmarker. Many Tintin fans in later years, when at the Hotel Cornavin, would ask to stay in "Professor Calculus's room" (Room 122, fourth floor), which did not actually exist. To clarify the matter, Hergé sent the Hotel a cut-out of Tintin, explaining that it was not possible to stay in the Professor's room.

  • The uniforms of the Bordurian police appear to be based on those of Hungarian police of the time, which they closely resemble. (The Hungarian Uprising took place eight months after the serialisation of the strip ended.)

  • A famous sight gag from this album involves Haddock trying to get rid of a piece of sticking plaster that keeps returning to him. This gag was repeated in Flight 714, although it is limited to only three panels.


The political background of The Calculus Affair is the Cold War and the measures that both sides would go to in order to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

The book in Professor Topolino's house, German Research in World War II by Leslie E. Simon, really existed and was published in 1947. Simon was a retired Major General in the U.S. Army. This explains why the red-and-white rocket on the dust-jacket of the book is remarkably similar to the Moon Rocket from Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon; that design was based on the German V-2 Rocket.

The physical appearance of Colonel Sponsz is based on Hergé's brother, Paul Remi, a career soldier. Paul had been the original inspiration for Tintin himself back in 1929. Dubbed "Major Tintin", he took on a new appearance in an attempt to get away from the image. This new look was to serve as the model for Sponsz, who would reappear in Tintin and the Picaros.

It seems possible that the research interests of Professor Calculus as portrayed in The Calculus Affair, were based upon those of the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich who in his later life became convinced of the existence of a form of energy which he called "orgone." Among the devices constructed by Reich to capture or manipulate "orgone" was the Cloudbuster which he claimed could be used to induce rain by forcing clouds to form and disperse - a device similar to that portrayed within 'The Calculus Affair' intended to destroy buildings by using focused rays of energy. Albert Einstein engaged in some correspondence with Reich which was later published as The Einstein Affair - a probable inspiration for the title of 'The Calculus Affair'.

The cover of the album has the main illustration surrounded by a shattered piece of glass.

The Calculus Case

'The Calculus Case' was a film adaptation of The Calculus Affair (L'affaire Tournesol). It was produced in 1959 by the company Belvision. Originally it was a television series made up of several short segments shown but presented by the English television into a full length film. In the 1980s it was released on VHS across the UK. In the early 2000s it was released on DVD only in English. See

See also


  2. De Grootste Belg (in Dutch)

External links

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