Mr Roubitschek is doing so well in the Ministry of Commerce that he is sent to Budapest to negotiate a new contract for the exchange of goods. Next day a telegraph arrives in Prague: "Contract successfully negotiated, stop, Long Live Free Hungary!"
Highly pleased with this, the Minister sends him to Warsaw. On the third day a telegram arrives: "Contract successfully negotiated, stop, Long Live Free Poland!'
"Comrade Roubitschek," his impressed superiors declare on his return, "you speak many languages and will therefore be given the important mission of negotiating a treaty for us in the West."
Roubitschek packs his bags and sets out. A week later a telegram arrives at the Ministry. "Am in Paris, stop, business going well, stop, Long Live Free Roubitschek."
- a joke from pre-Velvet Revolution Prague
That Roubitschek is a Jew we would not, I think, know for sure if Ruth R. Wisse (in her new book No Joke: The Making of Jewish Humor, Princeton, £16.95) hadn't told us she found the joke in Vladimir Karbusicky's Jewish Anecdotes from Prague, though the cheek and the shapeliness, the apparently obedient servant of the state having the last laugh on the system, the joy in the lingustic triumph, and of course the relief of getting the hell out, all have a colouration of Jewish comedy. "Long Live Free Roubitschek" satisfies because it cleverly mocks a sham freedom with a real one. Roubitschek "can finally release truth from the lies that he has been compelled to repeat", Wisse notes, but he can finally release himself into the freedom to have fun too. Roubitschek off the leash in Paris. You name them — Bellow, Heller, Malamud, Woody Allen — you can detect a hint of many a Jewish writer in that joke's relish of Roubitschek's victory.
- Trump's America: The End Of Exceptionalism
- The Kaliningrad Contingency
- Mrs May Is Too Canny To Say Farewell To Arms
- To Understand Trump, Read Huxley — Not Orwell
- A Letter To Our Great-Grandchildren
- Trump Is No Loser, But Government Will Be Harder
- Trump's Appeal Is More Roosevelt Than Reagan
- The Trump Presidency: A Worst-Case Scenario
- We Cannot Take Liberal Democracy For Granted
- No Need To Fear Russia. The Bear Is Broke
- Who Will Do Justice To Our Judiciary?
- Trust Westminster On Brexit: It's All We've Got
- Back to the "Future Of Socialism", Mr Corbyn?
- Would The Little Lady Like A Wee Dram?
- The Coalition We Need To Defeat Islamism
- Are We Losing The War On Home-Grown Terror?
- Cameron Gave Libyans A Chance. Pity They Blew It
- Brexit Will Give Global Free Trade A Boost
- The Real EU Referendum Winner May Surprise You
- Is Theresa May The True Heir To Mrs Thatcher?