Top 5: iconic characters from Luxembourgish fiction Spotlight on the Luxembourgish spirit through five works of fiction

This time around, our Top 5 series casts a light on five iconic characters from Luxembourgish fiction. Comic books, detective novels and series, 2D and 3D animation and fables for children offer ideal opportunities to uncover the spirit of Luxembourg, which is sometimes unique and sometimes universal in its appeal.

Superjhemp, the super-anti-hero of Luxusbuerg

He draws his powers from Kachkéis, the Luxembourgish cheese, and flies with his hands in his pockets, "like a true Luxembourger". But who is this character? It could only be our super-anti-hero, Superjhemp! By day, Charel Kuddel is a civil servant leading a boring life. He works for the Ministry of Unsolved Affairs in Little Duchy of Luxusbuerg. By night, he becomes Superjhemp, a caped crusader solving crimes and fighting villains.

This satirical character was created at the end of the 1980s, a comic book collaboration between Roger Leiner and the writer Lucien Czuga. Even though the character is one of the most popular Luxembourgish works of fiction, the spark for the creators came from an actual event: a string of mysterious bombings which took place between 1984 and 1986, referred to as the "Bommeleeër affair". The comic book De Superjhemp géint de Bommeleeër was published in 1988. Subsequently, our dear super-anti-hero has appeared in 29 comic books and, in 2018, he became a star of the silver screen with Superjhemp retörns. In the film, Charel Kuddel is in the midst of a mid-life crisis, but he tries to regain his superpowers to save Luxusbuerg from a cosmic catastrophe. The film was the highest grossing Luxembourgish film at the box office in the country's history!

It goes without saying that humour and self-mockery abound, but Superjhemp also casts a light on Luxembourg, VIPs and gives you the opportunity to practice Luxembourgish!

Capitani, judicial police

Luc Capitani is the latest newcomer to inspire the imagination of Luxembourgers. A policeman who is demanding and grumpy in equal measure, he is in charge of the case of the murder of a teenage girl and the disappearance of her twin sister in Manscheid, a small village in northern Luxembourg. Originating from the mining region in the south of the country, he struggles to adapt to the mentality of the inhabitants. Therefore, in the course of the investigation, Luc Capitani must not only track down a murderer, but also challenge the system in which many people are manipulated for the "common good”: nothing is what it seems and each inhabitant seems to know more than they are willing to reveal.

Where does this authoritarian character come from? A man with a hint of arrogance, who does not make things easy for anyone around him; no-one escapes his moods, not the suspects, his colleagues or the audience... He is the hero of the first police series to be filmed in Luxembourgish, Capitani. This is a classic crime thriller; each episode lasts about 30 minutes and it plays on the clichés and prejudices that Luxembourgers have about themselves.

The series was broadcast on RTL in the autumn of 2019, but its real success came when it was shown on Netflix in February 2021. It is in the top 10 of series with the highest viewing figures in 49 different countries! The actor Luc Schiltz, who plays the role of Capitani, has appeared on television screens around the world.

D'Maus Ketti, the gentle country mouse learns a lesson

Written by Auguste Liesch and published in 1936, Maus Ketti remains one of the most popular stories in Luxembourgish literature. Ketti, a friendly mouse from the south of the country, welcomes her rather snobbish cousin Mim, who lives in Clausen, in the capital. Unhappy with the food served to her, Mim invites Ketti (her cousin from the country) to the city to show her all the fancy delicacies that she keeps talking about. In the city, the two mice break into a house and feast upon the food laid out on a beautifully set table. All of a sudden, Tunn the cat appears and tries to catch the two mice...

Based on a fable by the Greek poet Aesop, this story casts a light on the difference between life in the country and in the city, and the lessons to be learned from it. The story was taught in various primary schools in Luxembourg and continues to be used in Luxembourgish language courses!

The mouse is so popular in Luxembourg that a sculpture has been erected in her honour in the municipality of Burmerange, and another sculpture stands proud in a fountain in Mondorf-les-Bains.

Pierre Blanc, public domain

Mr Hublot, a recluse... and an Oscar winner

He wears large thick lens glasses and has an odometer-like counter in his forehead which displays figures. It's Mr Hublot, the iconic character from the film of the same title which in 2014 won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Mr. Hublot lives in a bizarre world, where partially mechanic, patched and sewn characters rub shoulders with huge vehicles, a world where the gigantism of mechanics and the determination to recover reign supreme. Obsessive compulsive, afraid of the outside world and withdrawn into himself, Mr. Hublot detests change and the unexpected. Luckily, he has also found a very effective way to combat his idiosyncrasies: he never leaves his home! The arrival of Robot Pet, a dog, turns his life upside down and he is forced to share his home with this very invasive companion.

This short film was entirely produced and made in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg by producer Laurent Witz (Zeilt Productions) in co-production with Alexander Espigares, a former 'BTS' (vocational training certificate) student at the secondary school Lycée Technique des Arts et Métiers de la ville de Luxembourg. This animated short film was produced in 2D and 3D and took three years to complete.

© ZEILT productions - WATT frame - Arte, all rights reserved

Xavier Kieffer, chef and detective

Xavier Kieffer is a former Michelin-starred chef who now runs a small restaurant in Luxembourg. When a Parisian food critic suddenly collapses in his restaurant, the chef is suspected of murder and he immediately takes care of the situation: the budding amateur detective takes the investigation into his own hands. No need to panic... Xavier Kieffer is in fact the hero of the crime novels by Tom Hillenbrand which take place in the Grand Duchy and its surroundings.

The first novel in the series, Teufelsfrucht (The Devil's Fruit), was published in 2011. This book was followed by five other works: Rotes Gold (Red Gold), Letzte Ernte (The Last Harvest), Tödliche Oliven (Deadly Olives), Gefährliche Empfehlungen (Precarious Recommendations) and Bittere Schokolade (Bitter Chocolate). The author, Tom Hillenbrand is currently in the process of writing the seventh novel in the series, chronicling the life and times of this chef and accidental detective.

Tom Hillenbrand is an economic journalist. An internship at the European Parliament in 1997 afforded him the opportunity to discover Luxembourg and its culinary delights. He is a passionate cook, a pastime which he practises regularly; his first Luxembourg culinary experience was at a market where he sampled Gromperekichelcher (potato cakes) for the first time. However, the Luxembourg specialty which truly left its mark on his taste buds was Huesenziwwi (hare stew).

Don't miss this series of gastronomic and detective novels, it's a chance to explore Luxembourg and savour its gastronomy!

© Dirk Guldner
© Tom Hillenbrand, KiWi Verlag

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