Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ephraim Kishon, RIP

I was reading the latest piece by Matt Taibbi in New York Press, courtesy of a link from LRC, and went back to the main page to see if there were other articles worth perusing; that's when I saw it: Ephraim Kishon, 80.

Kishon may not be known to many North Americans, but I remember his satire fondly; several of his short story collections were translated by a Croatian publisher. In fact, it was the quality of Kishon translations that hinted at the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yugoslavia. Camel through the eye of the needle was brilliant; the following collection (whose name escapes me now) came out on the eve of Croatia's secession, and reflected the imposition of new words and language rules. It was marginal and damn-near illegible, but that wasn't Kishon's fault.

He wrote about Israel in a fashion that someone living in Yugoslavia - beset by similar bureaucratic and socialist challenges - could understand; but he also wrote about people, and whether in Israel or Yugoslavia, or the U.S., human nature is still pretty constant. I can still quote bits and pieces of his stories, and I've used his linguistic gambit from Operation Babylon (or whatever the story was actually called) many times. Dvargichoke plokay gvishkir? is perfect when you have to feign ignorance of the local language.

Since coming to the States, I've tried - mostly unsuccessfully - to find his work in English. I guess I'll have no choice but to improve my German.

Kishon may have passed on, but his readers will keep on laughing for ever, just like his Job Kunstatter, a poor trucker driven mad by the parking police.

Dvella, Ephraim. Dvella.

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