LETTER FROM PRAGUE: Sad Jokes
November 16, 2014 - accent chair
Some years ago we stumbled on a café in Prague’s Zizkov district where expats would accommodate any week for communication readings.
I’ve never been many of a producer myself, nonetheless we went since it was a good café, with good inexpensive Staropramen on tap, and since there were worse ways to spend a Sunday evening. Who knew? Perhaps there was an shocking poet, a supersoul – a Whitman, a Bukowski, a Thomas, watchful to blow me away. Plus, there was always a probability of assembly and networking with other writers.
In those days, my possess work had crawled to a oppressive halt; there was an unfinished initial novel sitting on my list during a flat, available a rewrite. There were a few insignificant missives published in Provokator, a start-up ‘zine that of march didn’t compensate anything. Actually that dusk when we arrived during a café, we saw Marika, Provokator instigator-in-chief, among a crowd, and so we chatted with her for a bit, and finished adult with an assignment to talk a Russian-American integrate who were entertainment a dilemma muster of their paintings. But that’s another story.
The readings went – well, OK, it wasn’t accurately North Beach, circa 1958. Most of a works review that dusk by a collection of expats were overly bookish, affected, indoorsy. One associate had a insolence to wear a purple velvet coat, finish with a pompous poet’s shirt that matched his clichéd long-flowing locks. He even retained a bottle of red booze in one palm (how original) and his poem in a other, reading in a lilting, faux-British accent, glancing adult whimsically from time to time, as nonetheless we all knew his difference reeked of a imperishable ages. He did emanate all right:
Fie! Oh fie!
Though my heart doth strech for a sky,
There is, By and By
Only You and we
You and I!
Other would-be poets had few illusions about their talents, and instead associated anecdotes, delivered in a light style, about their inebriated expat experiences, their Prague days and nights. Those stories during slightest put everybody during ease. A protected bet: After all, it’s improved than putting everybody to sleep.
One by one, they review their works, and perceived respectful applause. Meanwhile, we looked around during a mostly full café, and it was fun (wait – fun? It was nerve-racking, excruciating!) to watch a poets who were watchful in a wings; anxiously clutching their papers or notebooks, straining to listen to whoever was on theatre during a impulse nonetheless all their thoughts relentlessly focused on their arriving performance.
As we listened, we satisfied what a tough highway communication was. You suspicion of people like Bukowski, or Dylan Thomas, who were means to pull sell-out crowds behind in a day. They were like stone stars. Listening to some of their scratchy aged recordings, a imbibed producer and a riveted crowds, it was easy to be lured to that path. What a life! To be a poet, mountainous toward a heavens, while a rest of us have a measly 9 to fives. And yet, examination and listening to those who review that dusk during a café in Zizkov, we were condemned by a common display. Poetry: many are called, nonetheless few are chosen.
OK, that’s harsh. The works that were review that dusk were though a doubt delicately and solemnly written, and many of them were certainly loyal connoisseurs of a art. Without a doubt there was some perfected bid involved. They could substantially move poets that we or we have never even listened of.
And they weren’t all bad either. Some indeed went on to grasp a magnitude of approval and success. For example, one of a evening’s hosts, a charming, friendly Scotsman, eventually became one of a founders of B O D Y, an online communication biography that publishes works from obvious poets all around a world. His possess work has also achieved a share of recognition.
And also, we had to tip your shawl to a DIY inlet of a evening, something that readers behind home in Humboldt County can understand. It takes a certain volume of loyalty …
In this spirit, we took to attending a readings sincerely regularly. we even gave a few readings myself. Knowing that we wasn’t a poet, we took a protected highway that many did, and usually found a humorous story or dual that would be brief and that would go down simply with a beer. we called them “Conversations” rather than poems, since mostly we would rise it in a rambling way, mostly usually jotting down a bit of review overheard in a café or on a metro someday during a week. They were frequency brilliant, nonetheless during slightest they had a randomness – like flipping by pages of a repository – that irritated interest. It was tawdry communication of a purest kind, and people clapped a approach they would if they saw a male brazenly hidden a six-pack of drink from a preference store and removing divided with it.
One evening, we invited along a friend, Karel. He was a university tyro who I’d gotten to know in my internal pub. We favourite to get unequivocally dipsomaniac and toss a star about on many late nights. He was lustful of essay what he called “sad jokes.” If we laughed during a end, he would be crushed, unhappy in himself. “If it’s funny, it’s not a unhappy joke,” he’d say, tossing his prolonged hair out of his face and holding another sip of beer.
That evening, Karel hadn’t designed to review anything. He was usually curious, and suspicion it would be engaging to see what we foreigners had to say. So we got pints of Staropramen, sat together in a murky dilemma circuitously a behind of a café and listened. One woman, a sloshy, fifty-something American, delivered her delivery of “Lydia, The Tatoo-ed Lady,” in a demeanour of Groucho Marx. She did it during each reading, and it wasn’t even humorous a initial time.
There was a Purple Velvet Coat-wearing Jim Morrison clone, who went into his sly, clichéd bit of mannerisms with a bottle of red wine. A few others, again revelation safe, humorous stories that done a drink go down easy and a hours pass.
All this time, Karel had listened intently, sensitively sipping his drink and not observant a word. Near a finish of a evening, he unexpected approached a stage, with his modest, shy way. He spoke fast to a Scottish host, who receptively let him have a stage. Everyone sat adult curiously during this new arrival.
“Hello, we am Karel,” he said, introducing himself. He sat down on a stool, his shoulders slumped nervously. “I am Czech. we consider maybe we am a usually Czech chairman here tonight.”
The expat throng all laughed appreciatively, feeling self-aware. Right away, we sensed that they were on Karel’s side.
Karel, feeling a bit encouraged, went on in his clever English. He explained that he wrote “sad jokes,” and that he wanted to share one of them. He began:
“A male and his mother are carrying cooking during a excellent restaurant. The male binds a doorway for a mother when they go in. He binds a chair for her before she sits down. He sees she is warm, so he fast gets adult and opens a window to let in some air. She licks her lips, so he barks during a waiter to move a bottle of a excellent wine. Suddenly during a circuitously list a fat lady starts to giggle during something in a shrill, high-pitched laugh. The male sees his wife’s annoy during this annoyance. The male rises, goes to a subsequent table, takes reason of a fat lady and yanks her outside. Outside he deduction to kick a woman. He finishes and grabs a costly necklace from a woman’s neck. He earnings to a list and presents it to his wife.
Why did we do that?” a dismayed mother asks.
“For we darling,” a male says. “It was in your eyes.”
“But because did we act so violently?”
“It was in your eyes. Everything we do it is in your eyes.”
The assembly seemed to adore a reading, responding with bursts of elegant laughter, generally during a partial when a male began to kick his wife. They saw it as a kind of black amusement that is such a critical partial of Czech art and literature. Karel finished, and a throng applauded loudly. There were even a few whistles.
But as Karel returned to his seat, we could see he was disappointed.
“I delivered it badly,” he said, sitting down.
“Come on, we were great,” we said.
“No,” Karel said. “They were laughing. As we told we before, if it’s humorous afterwards it’s not a unhappy joke.”
After a show, during slightest a half dozen people came over with compliments. Presently a well-dressed immature male came over and sat down.
“Yes, we have a feeling for a Czech humor,” he said, introducing himself as Simon. He was from Denmark . “You jokes are good Czech humor. And your English was really elementary and clear. Most of a others, they pronounce in really slangy English. One can't know them.”
“But it’s not ostensible to be funny,” Karel said. He explained to Simon a judgment of a unhappy joke. The Dane listened closely, his eyes acid and sympathetic.
“Maybe something was mislaid in a translation,” he offered.
James Tressler is a author of “Conversations in Prague” and “Letters from Istanbul, Vol. 1.” He lives in Istanbul.