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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very unique read, at times incredibly interesting but does occasionally get bogged down with slightly ridiculous joke theory. Read morePublished on 30 Jun. 2011 by Ross
I enjoyed this book and found many of the insights in it interesting. However, I found quite a bit of the writing a bit flabby - particularly when the author switches to the... Read morePublished on 28 Oct. 2009 by Primal
Brilliant book, interesting, well researched and balanced. And also very funny!
This is a history book (read: academic): explaining how the political waves altered, and... Read more
I bought the book having enjoyed the one hour TV progtramme on the book. The rise and fall of communism is a fascinating story, but often very dry. Read morePublished on 29 July 2009 by Mr. I. Taylor
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