- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: W&N; UK ed. edition (28 May 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0753825821
- ISBN-13: 978-0753825822
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 423,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hammer And Tickle: A History Of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes Paperback – 28 May 2009
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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)
The book that immerses the Cold War in the warm bath of nostalgia.See all Product description
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apparently "humourless" because he supposes there may be more important things to talk about than simply retelling the jokes, the real
significance of which Walesa just perhaps might be in a better position to judge than Ben Lewis.
The book starts as a generalised overview of communism interspersed with communist jokes and occasional passages oozing with sentimentality about a former East German girlfriend. While these sentimental bits weren't particularly bad to start with, even slightly touching, by the end (I mean by the time I stopped reading!) I was rooting for it to end in abject misery as I absolutely couldn't stand the guy. After a while the history of communism ends and the framework for the narrative becomes his inquiry into communist jokes, mostly trying to force them into a theoretical framework he appeared to arrive at very early on. What finally stopped me reading was the author's (not at all concealed) contempt for everyone he interviewed. While Lewis managed to secure some incredible interviews with very central and informative individuals, he has no respect for any of these people, as he makes abundantly clear in his descriptions of his various interviewees as naive idealists, drunks, and delusional geriatrics.
Great subject, I recommend people read about it, but buy a different book.
On to the second point in my title: as another reviewer has pointed out, there is too much space devoted to the rise and fall of the author's relationship with an East German lady. There is also a fantasy sequence in which the author imagines himself taking part in an episode of Mastermind. This adds nothing to the book.
Finally, proofreading. On one page the pope is referred to as Jean Paul. A few pages later he is John Paul. We are told about villas in Romania being "raised to the ground". Unless the villas were originally subterranean this should read "razed". Perhaps worst of all, there are photographic plates in the middle of the book. The plates all have a number and a description alongside them. When these plates are referred to in the text the numbers frequently do not correspond to the plate being described.
This book has some interesting narrative and some very good jokes, but the problems I have highlighted make it worthy of only two stars.
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This is a history book (read: academic): explaining how the political waves altered, and...Read more
Hammer and Tickle By Ben Lewis
A review by the Cote d'Azure Men's
You can die laughing at Russian jokes, and the...Read more