Two Jews on a Train: Stories from the Old Country and the New

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, May 1, 2001 - Humor - 142 pages
"Two Jews were traveling on a train. . . . " Many Eastern European jokes—and several of the charming and often hilarious conversations in this book—begin this way. From all regions of the world and from all walks of life, the characters are young and full of life and old and ugly; they are rabbis, matchmakers, students, and immigrants. They gossip and speak about everything from the banalities of the world to the unspeakable evils of existence all for a single purpose: to laugh and to celebrate the good luck of being alive.

As Biro recounts these tales, we hear not only his voice and the voice of his father, but those of generations of storytellers who have used humor to teach about the truly important issues in life—the delicacy of love, the fragility of friendship, the pitfalls of self-righteousness, the costs of narrow-mindedness, and the unpredictability of life itself. Biro artfully spins each story, lingering on the details, guiding the reader to the inevitable—yet always unexpected—punchline.

Taken individually, these stories will make you laugh out loud; taken as a whole, they form an invaluable record of the sensibilities of an entire people. Biro writes: "These Jewish stories of which not a single one happened to me, and of which I did not invent a single one, do describe me, do characterize me, do explain me. They are always my own story. And yours."

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TWO JEWS ON A TRAIN: Stories from the Old Country and the New

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Anecdotal tales about Eastern Europe's Jews in the years immediately preceding WWII—many beginning (as do numerous classic Jewish jokes) with the title words. Inevitably reminiscent of Sholom ... Read full review

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About the author (2001)

Adam Biro is a French publisher and author who was born in Hungary. His previous books include Dictionnaire général du surréalisme et de ses environs (coedited with René Passeron) and Tsigane.

Catherine Tihanyi is a research associate in the Department of Anthropology, Western Washington University.

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