Is It Good For The Jews?: More Sto­ries From The Old Coun­try And The New

Adam Biro; Cather­ine Tihanyi, trans.
  • Review
By – September 16, 2011

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.

Discussion Questions