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December 30, 1990|Charles Solomon

YOU CALL THIS LIVING? A Collection of East European Political Jokes by C. Banc & Alan Dundes (University of Georgia Press: $9.95) . This expanded version of the authors' 1986 book, "First Prize: Fifteen Years!" draws primarily on Romanian sources for its bitter jokes. The gallows humor of these stories reflects the harsh life in the East Bloc during the Cold War era, an era of shortages, repression, bureaucratic inefficiency and all-pervasive government surveillance. Banc and Dundes offer variations on the stories from other countries, some of them from Fascist and even Czarist times. In addition to the insights they offer into long-closed societies, these jokes suggest that the only way to endure tyranny is to laugh at it--covertly.

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