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How to be a Brit

How to be a Brit

Titel: How to be a Brit
Autoren: George Mikes
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cold-bloodedness — there’s something to be said for not making too much of
sex), the gift for double-think which makes it possible to foist airfields and
motorways onto other people’s doorsteps and refuse to have them on your own…
All these virtues, being the result of power and affluence, are as I have said
disappearing. But they are disappearing very slowly — slowly enough for me. I
am disappearing slowly myself.
    Many people are leaving
this country: too many strikes, too little public transport, the falling pound
and standard of living, the sinking economy, the uncertainty of their
children’s future: they want no more of all this. Good luck to them.
    I, on the other hand, am
going to stay even if Britain becomes a desert island with me as her Robinson
Crusoe. That, when I come to think of it, would have considerable advantages.
The pound sterling would cease to exist so it could fall no lower. If I were
alone, Britain would at last be free of class distinctions — the only way, I am
sure, that this could happen. Or is it? As a British subject I could always
look down on myself as a former bloody foreigner, and as a former middle-class
intellectual I could despise the agricultural labourer I would have to become.
Even one man can keep up class-warfare if he’s really determined.
    Even with other people
around I like it here. Not always and not everything. But on the whole I like
it here very much. Besides, this country accepted me in my hour of need and I
am not abandoning her in her hour of need (although I have a vague
suspicion that I am of not too much help). I have changed my country once and
this is, I feel, enough for any man for a lifetime. Let England and me decay
together. We are both decaying in good company.
    Let me say one more thing
in conclusion. When I wrote that other little book, thirty years ago, I admired
the English enormously but did not like them very much; today I admire them
much less but love them much more.


    Dear George,
    We have been good friends
for a very long time. We really met properly here in England, that last summer
before the Second World War: when I arrived from Hungary you were already a
settled citizen of London. We had known each other in Budapest, of course — but
at that time I was still a little boy and you were a grown-up young journalist
going out with beautiful actresses, much too sophisticated to talk to your
younger brother or to me.
    That age-gap closed, but it
was not until the summer of 1945 that you did your first good deed for me. I
can tell you what you were doing on the Isle of Wight — you and your wife were
on holiday there. You rang me and said ‘I have written something. Come for the
week-end and read it.’ So I drove down in my battered little Hillman Minx, and
there was the manuscript which became How to be an Alien.
    I read it at a sitting and
naturally loved it, but said that you must write a little more. We agreed that,
as you were not well-known in England, we would have to find you an illustrator
who was famous as well as good. We drew up a list of names, and at its top was
the name of a man I have never met, Nicolas Bentley. So it was through you that
I met Nick, who became a great friend and my partner — something else to thank
you for.
    We have published books
together now, and it has been great fun, in spite of our many arguments. I have
always suspected that there is a little Paul Getty inside you wanting to get
out, and I know that the person wanting to get out of me is a clown. You and
Paul Getty, me and Grock — it sounds an ill-assorted team, but I think that we
haven’t done too badly.
    It gives me enormous
pleasure to make this one volume of your three famous books about the British.
If I am not an inimitable and decadent alien it is not for want of studying the
texts, but because I drew out of them their inner meaning as revealed through
your present title, and thanks to you, dear friend, have become a true Brit. 7

1 When
people say England, they sometimes mean Great Britain, sometimes the United
Kingdom, sometimes the British Isles — but never England.

2 Please note my extensive knowledge of
the American language.

3 While this book was at the
printers a correspondence in The Times showed that the English have
almost sixty synonyms for ‘street.’ If you add to these the street names which
stand alone (Piccadilly, Strand, etc.) and the accepted and frequently
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