Adam Biro first attracted attention in the United States with his ninth book, One Must Also Be Hungarian, which evoked the lost world of pre-war Hungarian Jews through stories about members of his own family. In contrast, his latest book is a collection of jokes whose humor depends on stereotypes of European Jews, much like his Two Jews on a Train of 2001.
Many of these tales are well-traveled: the Jew who reads an anti-Semitic newspaper, Jews who compete with one another to be the most humble, the ticketless synagogue visitor on Yom Kippur who is warned not to be caught praying. Others deal with enduring themes like Jews who are shrewd in business, parents manipulating their children through guilt, fund-raisers for the United Jewish Appeal, and complaining Jewish women. Typically, the telling of a joke is stretched over five pages, embellished with many imagined details and authorial asides.
The translation’s many stilted or mistaken word choices (often substituting French usage for English: “Carpates” for “Carpathians,” “the Saint” for “the Holy One”) are distracting. In the end, though, how much you enjoy these stories will probably depend on how much you like the author’s prolix, self-referential way of recounting them.