This paper examines the similarities between the narrative techniques employed in the final three Tintin albums, and the novels of the lesser-known French naturalist authors from the 1880s. Both Hergé and these writers were driven by a pessimism, both existential and aesthetic, to rewrite the earlier works in whose shadow they stood, undermining their mimetic character. As a result, such apparently diverse genres as the bande dessinée and the naturalist novel come to share features like misleading nomenclature, the erosion of character agency and circular narratives. The praise frequently lavished on Les Bijoux de la Castafiore ['The Castafiore Emerald'] at the expense of the two following albums, therefore, overlooks their fundamental kinship. Hergé removes Tintin from the centre of his later narratives and often diminishes his role. His interviews and biographies confirm his deteriorating feelings toward his creation, a sentiment that had been foreshadowed in 1880s France. There, authors like Hennique, Huysmans and Céard felt oppressed by the style of writing mastered by Flaubert and Zola before them. In both contexts, the paradoxical result of such disillusionment is a focus on rewriting the earlier texts, exposing the mechanisms of mimesis relied upon by Zola and the younger Hergé.