The Calculus Affair (French: L'Affaire Tournesol) is the eighteenth of The Adventures of Tintin. Some, such as Benoit Peeters in his book Tintin and the World of Hergé have labelled this installment as the greatest of the series. The Tintin website dubs The Calculus Affair as the most "detective-like" of the whole series. Tintin and his friends travel to Borduria to rescue Cuthbert Calculus after he was abducted.
In the middle of a thunderstorm, Tintin and Captain Haddock take shelter in Marlinspike Hall. During the storm, several items of glass and chinaware within the house break for no apparent reason. An insurance agent, Jolyon Wagg barges into the hall seeking shelter. He claims that all the windows of his car have somehow blown to bits. More mysterious incidents of glass breaking occur.
After the storm, gunshots are heard outside. Professor Calculus returns from his laboratory with bullet holes in his hat. Investigating outside, Tintin discovers a wounded man in the grounds, though he disappears before he can be questioned further.
The following day a preoccupied Calculus leaves to attend a conference on nuclear physics in Geneva, Switzerland. With Calculus gone the glass breaking ceases, leading Tintin to suspect Calculus may have been unknowingly responsible for it. He and Captain Haddock investigate inside his laboratory, finding a strange device and boxes of broken glass. Suddenly they are surprised by a man in trenchcoat and mask, who escapes after punching the Captain and Snowy. He drops a key and a cigarette pack with the name of the Hotel Cornavin (where Calculus is staying in Geneva) scrawled onto it.
Believing that Calculus is in danger, Tintin and Haddock decide to follow him to Switzerland.In Geneva, Tintin and Haddock miss Calculus at his hotel by a matter of seconds, delayed by two men dressed in the same trench coats as the man in the lab. They track Calculus to Nyon, at the home of Professor Alfredo 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 survive and reach Topolino's house. Calculus's umbrella is there, but he is not.
Topolino is found bound and gagged in his own cellar. Topolino claims that it was Calculus's doing but when shown a photograph of the professor he does not recognise him. They deduce that someone 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 hampered Tintin and Haddock's efforts to find Calculus in Geneva blow up Topolino's house in an attempt to get rid of them all, but they survive nonetheless.
Tintin and Haddock conclude that Calculus had invented a Sonic Device capable of destroying glass and porcelain, and with the potential to be converted into a weapon. Concerned of the consequences of his invention, he had decided to talk it over with Topolino. But Topolino's assistant, 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 are after the device. Abducted at first by Bordurians, Calculus is then snatched by Syldavian agents in spite of Tintin and Haddock's efforts to rescue him. Pursuing the Syldavians in a helicopter across Lake Geneva into France, they chase a boat and then a car carrying Calculus, but the helicopter runs out of fuel and they lose them. After being pursued by Tintin and Haddock through the French countryside, the Syldavians escape in a plane, with Calculus as their prisoner. However, the plane is forced down over Bordurian territory, meaning Calculus is back in Bordurian hands. Tintin and Haddock set off for Szohôd, the capital of Borduria in hope of finding their friend again.
The Bordurians are alerted to their arrival by the two men in Geneva (who were Bordurian secret agents), and they are intercepted at the airport by the Bordurian Secret Police (ZEP). Assigned two minders who take them to a luxury hotel and keep them in bugged rooms, Tintin and Haddock manage to escape and hide in the Szohôd Opera House, where Bianca Castafiore is performing. She invites them into her dressing room but is visited by Colonel Sponsz, chief of ZEP, in her dressing room.
Tintin and Haddock hide in Bianca's closet, overhearing the conversation between Sponsz and Castafiore. Sponsz reveals Calculus's location, a prison in the Fortress of Bakhine, and the stress on him to surrender his plans. If he does give them up, then he will be handed over to two officials from the Red Cross, 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 Red Cross officials, acquire 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 destructive potential of his invention, Calculus burns his plans by lighting them with Haddock's pipe while it is placed in his mouth. The enraged captain insults Calculus as a "jack-in-a-box". Calculus' poor hearing results in him thinking that Haddock said "chicken pox", and the professor then tells Jolyon Wagg that Haddock is suffering from this disease. While Wagg at first interprets it as a joke, he then remembers that chicken pox is infectious, and Wagg doesn't want to be infected, so he and his family leave Marlinspike.
- Captain Haddock
- Cuthbert Calculus
- Thompson and Thomson
- Cutts the Butcher
- Jolyon Wagg
- Stefan Szhrinkoff
- Professor Alfredo Topolino
- Mr. Magistrate
- Plekszy Gladz
- Arturo Cartoffoli
- Colonel Sponsz
- Krônick and Klûmsi
- Bianca Castafiore
- Igor Wagner
- Major Kardouk
- Lieutenant Kavitch
- R.W. Trickler
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