February 18, 2006


You have been learning a foreign language for some time, then you meet a native speaker of the language in question and realise that you still have difficulties understanding them and making yourself understood.
This is the feeling and experience that George Mikes shares with us in this excerpt in a humorous way.

George Mikes's book How to be Inimitable is one of his ’How to be…’ series. In 1946 he published How to be Alien which went into thirty editions and established the author as a humorist writer. Other publications include Little Cabbages, Shakespeare and Myself, Italy for Beginners, How to Unite Nations, How to be Poor, How to Scrape Skies…….
On his seventieth birthday in 1982, he published his autobigoraphy, How to be Seventy.
George Mikes was born in 1912 in Siklós, Hungary. He studied law and received his doctorate in Budapest University. He became a jounalist and was sent to London as a correspondent to cover the Munich crisis. He came for a fortnight but stayed on and made England his home. During the Second World War he broadcast for the BBC Hungarian Service where he remained until 1951. He continued working as a freelance critic, broadcaster and writer until his death in 1987.
Cover illustration of How to be a Brit is by Nicolas Bentley.

The guitar music on my podcast is played by a Hungarian musician called Gábor Szabó. The story of this background music is not so humorous though.
The author of the song is Rezső Seress whose most famous song is 'Gloomy Sunday'. I am copying some information about it taken from Wikipedia. If you wish to find out more about it you can find the link below.

'Gloomy Sunday' (Szomorú Vasárnap) is a song written by the Hungarian self-taught pianist and composer Rezső Seress in 1933. It allegedly inspired hundreds of suicides and so quickly became known as the "Hungarian suicide song". (Seress himself jumped to his death from his apartment in 1968.)
The origin of the song became the background of the German/Hungarian movie "Gloomy Sunday - Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod" (1999) loosely translated 'A Song About Love and Death', based on the novel by Nick Barkow.
The list of the international singers who have covered Rezső Seress's songs is quite long from Billy Holiday through Björk to Diana Kroll.



Blogger anitanita said...

Valeria, great music, great choice of a book! I REALLY REALLY like it. I will definitely recommend it to others!
Your neighbour from Slovenia

3:05 AM  
Blogger Uwe Klemm said...

Valeria -
thanks for that post! I found it very informative and well made. Your additional explanations on the piece of music are very informative as well.


4:01 PM  
Blogger Claudia Bellusci said...

I smiled to myself when I read your comment about the book. When I was a first year student at the university, our English language teacher mentioned "How to be an Alien". I don't remember exactly what he said, but I know he praised the book for its humour and recommended it to us. I never got it here in Argentina. But now you reminded me of it and I can try at Amazon.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Valeria said...

Thank you for all your nice comments. They are so inspiring.
Small world, isn't it. Anita is my dear neighbour, Uwe has already hitch-hiked in Hungary and Maria Claudia has heard of the Hungarian author G. Mikes and his 'How to be..'series, which was a real surprise for me. If you can't get it at the Amazon, Claudia, I can check if it is still available in Hungary.

11:57 PM  

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