One day, while staying as a guest at a Swiss friend’s chalet in Verbier, I picked up a book from the shelf, sat by the fireplace to read while everyone else was out in the village doing a shopping activity of some sort (an activity that I hate with a passion, especially grocery shopping). In the quiet of the chalet and the golden light of the late afternoon, you could hear my bursts of laughter as I read the words of George Mikes, a Hungarian-born British author of unsurpassed wit and sense of humor – he reminds me of Oscar Wilde. I thought of stealing the book, I loved it so much, but then my upbringing stopped me, so I wrote down the details of the old book instead, and promised myself to buy a copy for myself. Well, I forgot to do that. Don’t we all, we make all these firm decisions on the spur of the moment, and then forget to go back to our firm words and put them into execution.
I forgot until this year, when I was in a book store and I found more titles other than the one I read in Verbier “Switzerland for beginners” by the late George Mikes. I decided to find out more about this writer, who died in 1987, and who had such a simple and sound approach to life, travel, the world, and a sense of humor that grabbed my attention. He was born in Hungary in 1912, started his life as a journalist, was sent to London to cover a story at the age of 26 and ended up spending the rest of his life there.
His most famous book was “How to be an Alien”, which in 1946 was a great success in post-war Britain http://www.lib.ru/ANEKDOTY/mikes1.txt. I love the book as it offers a keen sense of observation and a view of the simple pleasure the English took of others’ opinions of them, no matter how critical these were. It reflects with great humor the matter-of-fact way in which English people react to happenings that would ignite wars elsewhere. What I found hilarious is the author’s indignant reaction when his book went into the 24th reprint and he got a request by the British government for it to be translated to Polish for the new immigrants. Mikes wrote his book as a criticism and a form of rebellion against everything English – including a one- line chapter on sex: “Continental people have sex lives; the English have hot-water bottles.” He was appalled by the success of his work. He felt he was robbed of his defiance.
I am now reading him again on my kindle, as one of his theories really interests me. I am aiming to cover, elaborate and extrapolate on that theory in a future blog. I think it is very funny, but also very promising.
The working title of my future post, based on George Mike’s work: We need to all hate each other to attain universal peace.
Intrigued? Watch this space.
Some amazing British humor by John Cleese in the famous “don’t mention the war” scene from Faulty Towers, love the way he duck marches in this scene