The Italian-French Founder of Charlie Hebdo

Fascinating sub-story at Bloomberg on the attacked magazine, Charlie Hebdo….
Perhaps you did not find Charlie Hebdo, the Paris satirical weekly attacked by terrorists on Wednesday, all that funny. That’s only natural: People in different countries laugh at different jokes and have varying tolerance for irreverence, offensiveness and plain grossness. As the French magazine, notwithstanding all it’s suffered, prepares to print a million copies of its next issue —  17 times its usual run — it’s important to note that it comes from a European tradition much broader than the French brand of satirical slapstick it most employs, and has at its roots a personal story as tortured as the continent’s recent history.

Francois Cavanna was the publication’s founding editor in chief, back when it was called Hara-Kiri. He was the one who renamed it Charlie Hebdo in 1970, after Hara-Kiri was banned for publishing this cover, which used the death of Charles de Gaulle to spoof press coverage of a nightclub fire that took 146 lives. (“Tragic Ball at Colombey, One Dead,” read the coverline.)

Cavanna was the son of an Italian immigrant mason. He grew up in a poor eastern suburb of Paris, taunted by French nationalists but in love with the French language. He didn’t get to make it his profession until much later.

In 1943, at the age of 20, he was sent by the Nazis to Germany to work in an ordnance factory in Treptow, now part of Berlin … Read ALL

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