|Archive for Big Readers A place for discussing books and all things bookish.
Russian HumourI've just finished and enormously enjoyed Ben Lewis's "Hammer and Tickle" described on the title page as "A History of Communism" told through Communist jokes. Lewis takes us through the history of Communism from its earliest days going back to the time of the tsars, to its collapse, and in all the countries where it took hold. In each period he describes succinctly how Comminsism developed and spread and relates the humorous response to it and its problems. There are literally thousands of jokes, nearly always underground, and you could be gulagged for telling or listening to them. Its a most enjoyable and fascinating read. I often laughed out loud. I quote a few, but most are too long to post.
A man said 'That Nicolas is a moron'. He was arrested by a policeman for insulting Tsar Nicolas ll.
'No sir', said the man, 'I did not mean our respected Emperor, but another Nicolas.'
'Don't try to trick me', replied the policeman. 'If you say 'moron' you obviously refer to our Tsar.'
What's the difference between Stalin and Roosevelt?
Roosevelt collects the jokes that people tell about him, and Stalin
collects the people who tell jokes about him.
'What would you like for your birthday, Natasha?'
'A slap in the face from President Truman.'
'Are you crazy? Why?'
'Because the either he would be here or I would be there.'
Why isn't there any flour for sale?
Because they started adding it to bread.
Man sees a friend hopping across Red Square. 'Have you lost a shoe,
'No. I found one.'
Oooh, this sounds delightful. I've come across some of those jokes about life in in the workers' paradise in other non-fiction books - Alexander Dolgun's gulag memoir comes to mind. In it he tells a joke; perhaps it's famous:
A new prisoner shows up at the camp, and, as always, the other zeks gather round and pepper him with questions the first chance they get.
'How long is your sentence?'
'What are you in for?'
'Nothing! I did nothing!'
'Liar! The sentence for doing nothing is ten years!'
And there's the one about the officer worker who saves his rubles for many years until he's finally got enough to buy a Lada. He goes to the state auto dealer, makes all the arrangements and then learns there'll be a delay of five years before the car will actually be available. But the agent is helpful, at least. He can name an exact date and will have the car delivered - August 10, 1975.
Says the buyer: 'Will that be in the morning or afternoon?'
'It's five years from now!' exclaims the agent. 'What possible difference could it make?'
'The plumber is coming that morning.'
That book sounds great. I am a bit of an oracle of jokes (mostly appalling ones, it has to be said), but the only Communism-related one I can think of is this:
A peasant goes up to Lenin a couple of years after the revolution.
"Mr Lenin", he says, "you promised us that, come the revolution, all the peasants would get two acres".
Lenin looks awkward, momentarily. Then:
"Oh dear," he says. "Did we miss you?" He kicks him in the testicles. "There you go - two achers!"
(well I did warn you!)