If you want to succeed here you must be able to handle the English sense of humour. So proclaims George Mikes’ timeless exploration of this curious phenomenon. Whether it’s understatement, self-deprecation or plain cruelty, the three elements he identifies as essential to our sense of humour, being witty here is a way of life.
Perfectly placed as an adopted Englishman himself, Mikes delivers his shrewd advice – helpfully divided into ‘Theory’ and ‘Practice’ – with a comic precision that does his chosen country proud. Drawing on a trove of examples from our rich comic canon, from Orwell (“Every joke is a tiny revolution”) to Oscar Wilde, this is the essential handbook for natives and foreigners alike. Mrs Kennedy: “I don’t think, Mr Churchill, that I have told you anything about my grandchildren.” Winston Churchill: “For which, madam, I am infinitely grateful.”