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Laughing Matters: International Humor

January 2019

Image: Yue Minjun, A-maze-ing Laughter, 14 patinated cast-bronze figures. By arrangement with the Vancouver Biennale.

As the Northern Hemisphere shivers and wonders when the sun might next appear, we’re offering a break from the gloom by turning to humorous work from our archives. From political satire to broad farce, slapstick to the subtlest of ironies, the writers here demonstrate the value of comic relief. In three sardonic looks at government, Fouad Laroui’s diplomat loses his pants but keeps his wits, Hilda Twongweire’s loyal minister covers up his bosses’ assignations, and Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain’s hapless speechwriter undergoes trial by rewrite. Iharilanto Patrick Andriamangatiana eggs on a market scheme. Gabriela Wiener finds three’s company. Empar Moliner discovers a way out of marital boredom, while Saša Stanišiç and Wladimir Kaminer journey into farce. Behnaz Alipour Gaskari’s respectable matron finds herself in an anxiety dream come to life. Huang Fan’s master real estate salesman designs a blueprint for success. And Griet Op de Beeck’s dinner guest is served up a social conundrum.

A Pun, an Idiom, and an Expletive Walk into a Bar: International Humor
By Susan Harris
When we think of translating humor, we may think in terms of capturing jokes.
The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers
By Fouad Laroui
So, nichts pairs of pants and Europe awaits me at nine o’clock sharp.
Translated from French by Emma Ramadan
Auntie’s Eggs
By Iharilanto Patrick Andriamangatiana
It’s a well-known fact that rhyming jingles attract customers.
Translated from French by Allison M. Charette
A Classical Education
By Saša Stanišiç
“And Mister Mozart didn’t fasten his seatbelt either,” the little monster tattled.
Translated from German by Saša Stanišiç & Janet Hendrickson
By Gabriela Wiener
I’ve been unfaithful on Good Friday, Mother’s Day, Christmas and even during a coup d’état.
Translated from Spanish by Lucy Greaves
Paris Lost
By Wladimir Kaminer
Our government was very generous with its citizens; it couldn’t be compared to an imperialist regime.
Translated from German by Liesl Schillinger
The Invention of the Aspirin
By Empar Moliner
To think that by just using her imagination, they could all be hers, bores her stiff.
Translated from Catalan by Peter Bush
Weapons of Mass Diplomacy
By Abel Lanzac & Christophe Blain
Look, seriously, he’s gonna make you rewrite it ten times.
Translated by Edward Gauvin
Baking the National Cake
By Hilda Twongyeirwe
He feels like opening the door and stuffing the VP into one of the old closets.
Translated from Runyankole-Rukiga by Juliet Kushaba
A History of Condo Sales
By Huang Fan
And so our company’s gigantic neon sign escapes your sight, perched atop an eighteen-story condominium.
Translated from Chinese by Kevin T.S. Tang
By Behnaz Alipour Gaskari
She was now sitting half-naked in front of the door.
Translated from Persian by Sara Khalili
What You’ve Given Up Hoping for Counts Twice as Much, She’d Discovered
By Griet Op de Beeck
In general Kathleen didn’t look at the contents of toilet bowls, but in this case it didn’t take much to notice the colossus.
Translated from Dutch by Michele Hutchison