Thursday, December 27, 2012

Readings for a year's end: "to kill laughter in a man is a crime"

I know an extremely interesting story about uncontrollable laughter. In 1940, Germany was sending its youth  to the armament factories. A young man from Essen, working at Krupp's, was given the sack because he kept having fits of laughter. They moved him to other factories. He was thrown out of them all because he laughed. He was not punished. No other fault could be found with him. They got rid of him. They sent him home with this chit that I saw in 1946: Incurable frivolity.

To kill laughter in a man is a crime.That is what happens when one involves him in political problems that make him take himself seriously and when he is consulted about things of which he knows nothing. He can no longer laugh. He gives himself airs. It is also what happens when he is not consulted and is beaten into submission.

Pierre Roy,when I ask him about his political opinions, declares "I am a moderate anarchist." I wonder if he has not found the right formula and if France is not entirely committed to this shade of opinion. 

Jean Cocteau, from his essay "On Laughter," from The Difficulty of Being (DaCapo Press, 1995)

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