Asterix returns in chariot race through Italy

Asterix is to ride again in the 37th book in the legendary comic series, its publishers said on Monday.

Asterix returns in chariot race through Italy
French cartoonist Didier Conrad (L) and French writer and designer Jean-Yves Ferri pose with an effigy of comic book character Asterix. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

“Asterix and the Chariot Race” will hit the bookshelves on October 19th recounting the adventures of the shrewd Gallic hero and his rotund sidekick Obelix during a mad dash down the length of ancient Italy.

The only Asterix story to be set entirely on the Italian peninsula, it takes place in 50 BC with Julius Caesar trying to prove “that all of Italy is in thrall to Rome” even though “many regions are determined to maintain their independence.”

To burnish Roman glory and showcase the “dazzling excellence of Roman roads” Caesar invites teams from all over the known world to compete in the race.

There is only one catch – “the Roman competitor must absolutely cross the finishing first,” the publishers said.

Caesar's charioteer and the latest Asterix baddie is a masked villain called Coronavirus, named after the SARS virus which caused a worldwide health alert in 2002.

Writers Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, who have penned the last three Asterix stories, said this time they wanted Obelix to take the limelight.

“It's very much Obelix driving the chariot and the story,” said Conrad as the book's publication date was announced in Paris.

Although details of the story are still under wraps, it features Bretons, Picts (Scots), Goths and Phoenicians as well as the two Gauls.

Five million copies of “Asterix and the Chariot Race” have been printed for the first edition, with two million alone to go on sale in France.

Albert Uderzo, now 90, who created the characters in 1959 with Rene Goscinny, told reporters in a video message that the “story really touched me because as well as cartoons I love cars.”

More than 370 million Asterix books have been sold since Goscinny and Uderzo first brought him to life in the Franco-Belgium comic Pilote.


Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?