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Hammer And Tickle: A History of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes

Hammer And Tickle: A History of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes [Kindle Edition]

Ben Lewis

Kindle-Preis: EUR 8,49 Inkl. MwSt. und kostenloser drahtloser Lieferung über Amazon Whispernet

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Ben Lewis's book celebrates the brilliance with which jokes exposed the gulf between the Soviet ideal and its brutal reality. SUNDAY TELEGRAPH There is a laugh on every page -- John Suchet S MAGAZINE, SUNDAY EXPRESS


Q: Why, despite all the shortages, was the toilet paper in East Germany always 2-ply?
A: Because they had to send a copy of everything they did to Moscow.Communist jokes are the strangest, funniest, most enchanting and meaningful legacy of the 80 years of political experimentation in Russia and Eastern Europe, known as Communism. The valiant and sardonic citizens of the former Communist countries - surrounded by an invisible network of secret police, threatened with arrest, imprisonment and forced labour, confronted by an economic system that left shops empty, and bombarded with ludicrous state propaganda - turned joke-telling into an art form. They used jokes as a coded way of speaking the truth.HAMMER AND TICKLE takes us on a unique journey through the Communist era (1917-1989), and tells its real history through subversive jokes and joke-tellers, many of whom ended up in the gulags. It is also illustrated with a combination of rare and previously unpublished archive material, political cartoons, caricatures, photographs and state-sponsored propaganda. Humorous, culturally poignant and historically revealing, this is the story of a political system that was (almost) laughed out of existence.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 2439 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 358 Seiten
  • Verlag: Phoenix (16. Juni 2011)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B0056WOEM2
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
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  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #297.115 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.0 von 5 Sternen  6 Rezensionen
8 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Get it for the jokes, not for author's nonsense 3. August 2010
Von Mensan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
Ben Lewis merely poached communist jokes from several Eastern European countries and filled the rest of the space with the following:
1) some historical background (acceptable)
2) his own half-baked theories and clumsy interviews (enough said)
3) relationship issues with his girlfriend (?)
I am not sorry I bought the book because of the jokes, which there are plenty in the book.
It is a pitty that such a worthy subject did not get an author it deserves.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen What is it? A humor anthology, a romance, a history, or a philosophy? 26. Januar 2012
Von Graham H. Seibert - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
Like other reviewers, I bought this volume looking for an anthology of communist jokes. Instead, it is a history of humor in the communist world, or perhaps a history of communism seen through the prism of its humor.

Other reviewers have noted that the book weaves together several rather incongruous threads. There is a history of the author's romance with a woman from the former East Germany, juxtaposing her unrepentant affection for communism, flaws and all, with his humorous, or perhaps cynical irreverence about everything in general and communism in particular. Then there is a history of the Soviet Union and of communism, played out in interviews with the likes of Lech Walesa. There is a history of official humor as a propaganda vehicle, and finally, the stuff we were looking for, the underground jokes that poked fun at communism.

An author should begin a book with a notion of who his readership might be. Lewis'book lacks that focus. He has parts for people who are just looking for jokes, historians and philosophers. Assessing each thread separately, I would say that he doesn't do a bad job with any of them. But just as you would not buy a single book to teach you how to cook and drywall, neither would I expect many people will be interested in the full range of Lewis' interests.

The book does have its bright points. First, he has edited the jokes fairly well. In any anthology of 1000 jokes the reader starts to gag after about 50 of them, wondering where the good ones are. In this book the jokes are sparse enough that when you come across one, you generally laugh. The strength of the joke is in the telling. Like any author, Lewis has taken liberties to structure the jokes optimally.

Lewis wrote his own amalgam of communist humor, 'A Day in the Life of Ivan Zimpsonovich,' featuring Elizaveta and Bartski. A typical joke: `Supper-time,' Mrs Zimpsonovich calls from the kitchen. 'Sausage soup,' she lies. She serves Bartski takes a spoonful of soup, but before he puts it in his mouth, he sees something black and rubbery on his spoon. Yuck, look, Mum,' he says, "there's a piece of tyre in my soup!' `Eat it, Bartski,' says his father. This is another achievement of Socialism. Barely fifty-five years since the Revolution, and already we have almost completely replaced the horse with the automobile.'

Lewis' history of communism hits all of the major phases of development in the Soviet Union, and also illustrates the uniqueness of the interpretations of communism in several of the satellites, especially East Germany, Romania, Hungary and Poland. He captures Joseph Stalin's own grim sense of humor, his paranoid ability to liquidate large numbers of the people around him and joke with them about it at the same time.

Perhaps the best measure of a book is whether or not you have the stomach to finish it. This one on my Kindle for four days before I got to the last chapter, but I did get all the way through it and I'm glad that I did.
3.0 von 5 Sternen Where was the editor? 28. Juni 2012
Von doc peterson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
Twain, of course, was spot on, when he wrote, "against the assult of laughter, nothing can stand." It was therefore with great interest that I picked up Lewis' book, having long been a fan of Soviet humor. What a disappointment, then, to find such a mish-mash of personal anecdotes intertwined with the ostensible subject of the book. The historical context Lewis provides is both necessecary (for those not familiar with events and personalities parodied) and well-written; this was a real strength of the book. The jokes were great (and brought many a smile to my face). The personal stories Lewis inexplicably included, however, were something I could have done without. For this I hold the editor equally at fault as Lewis, both of whom should have known better. If you can manage to skip to the "good stuff" - the self-depreciating (and cutting) humor, there is much to like here. Getting to it takes some effort. My recommendation, prior to picking this up, is Soviet Humor: The Best of Krokodil - the flavor is very similar without the author getting in the way.
5.0 von 5 Sternen hammer and Tickle 17. Juni 2012
Von rh - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Von Amazon bestätigter Kauf
I was in the U.S.S.R.3 times,Russia and know some Russian.Yes,they did and do laugh at themselves.Ex."V Pravdye ne Izvestiia i v Izvestii ne pravdy!In Truth (party paper)_there is no news-government paper -and in news there is no truth!Gave it to some Yevraiki Russian Jewish Women!
8 von 27 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Too much hammer, too little tickle 29. August 2008
Von Theodore A. Rushton - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Stephen Leacock's verdict that "humour may be defined as the kindly contemplation of incongruities of life, and the artistic expression thereof" should be kept in mind when reading this book.

If humour could destroy an political ideology, as Lewis thinks, it would have destroyed Reagan's "voodoo economics" long before he was elected. Instead, humour strengthened Reagan, because he knew how to use it to counter his critics.

Sadly, Lewis and the communists didn't realize the essence of humour is human kindness, and thus it is a safety valve of society. It's why a George Bush (or a Bill Clinton if you prefer) survives; people laugh away their frustrations during the late night shows and then forget the incongruities of politics by the dawn of a new day.

Sadly, the Soviets used vodka as their safety valve.

Under the Soviets, humour was a person-to-person effort; had it been on radio every night, communists might still be in power. Will Rogers was a classic American political humourist; and, he generally strengthened the American politics. Humour releases tension; censorship allows it to build up until it explodes.

That said, this book is an amusing collection of basic humour from the dissidents of authoritarian power. Like a single drop of rain, the humour may be perfect even though ineffective; bottled up, it can erupt with the power of a desert flood.

The weakness of this book, as other commentators attest, is its pretentious seriousness. It's great strength is its authentic dissident humour from inside authoritarian regimes. Had Lewis understood humour, he'd realize much of the same humour can equally apply to Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.

Humour is not ideological; it is always subversive. It's a safety valve, not a pressure cooker. It's a mirror, not a shield or club. It's harmless when allowed to run free, as it does on every late night show; it's deadly when it becomes secrets shared only and quietly among friends. Has anyone heard a good joke praising George Bush?

Lewis is on the track of a great story. Perhaps, in a later book and if he develops a sense of humour, he'll realize the universal nature of humour. Communist theology was based on suppressing many basic human attitudes; it failed because it could not control human nature and the tendency to laugh at one's foibles.

It's a gem of a book, for the jokes it includes; but, it's mediocre in understanding the impact of suppressing such otherwise harmless laughter.
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