Thursday, May 20, 2021

Folklore Fights the Nazis by Kathleen Stokker

Subtitle: "Humor in Occupied Norway 1940-1945" Let me get the bad bits out of the way quickly: She hammers way too hard on the point that humor helped stiffen resistance. The book's prose and structure are somewhat academic.

That said, the recorded Norwegian humor differs in tone from that I read of from You Call This Living? (Banc and Dundes) in Soviet and Nazi lands. It was more confrontational, and less concerned with ubiquitous snitches (though there were collaborators and the Germans were not kind).

A farmer received a threatening letter about his failure to produce enough eggs. He wrote back saying, "Have submitted your document to the individuals concerned, but inasmuch as they refused to comply, they have been court-martialed, placed before a firing squad and executed."

Compare the tone with

Two guards walked their rounds down empty streets. The first asked, "Tell me truthfully. What is your opinion of the regime?"

The second replied, "The same as yours, comrade."

"In that case, said the first, it is my duty to arrest you."

As the war turned sour for the Germans, the local Nazi (NS) party, never huge, started to suffer.

Have you heard they're awarding prizes to those who can increase Nazi party membership? Anyone who can get 5 people to join will be allowed out of the party. And those who can get 10 people to join will recieve written documentation of never having been a member.

Imbedded in the book is quite a bit of history of the war from Norway's perspective.

The "quick-witted putdown" is apparently something of a cultural tradition, and Norway was more homogenous than many of the countries appearing in You call this living, so perhaps that might contribute to the more direct tone. Needless to say, most were not told to Germans--though some actors skated very close to the line.

Many of the jokes are given in Norwegian and English--the puns are explained, and if you read Norwegian you get the full benefit.

I thought it interesting. Don't expect to be rolling on the floor laughing, but read it.

1 comment:

dmoelling said...

Scandanavian humor is an acquired taste. It is more three stooges than a clever joke. Part of this may be the largely uniform expectations and tastes among the broad population. You can tell the joke and the listener will fill in the gaps.