George Mikes

George Mikes

George Mikes (1912–1987) was a Hungarian-born British author most famous for his humorous commentaries on various countries.


He was born on 15 February 1912 in the village of Siklos, Hungary. His first job was as a journalist on a Budapest newspaper. In 1938 he was sent to London to cover the Munich Crisis expecting to stay for a couple of weeks, but instead remained for the rest of his life. He married twice, with a son by his first marriage. He was a friend of Arthur Koestler. He died on 30 August 1987.


His first book (1945) was "We Were There To Escape - the true story of a Jugoslav officer" about life in prisoner-of-war camps. "The Times Literary Supplement" praised the book for the humour it showed in parts, which led him to write his most famous book How to be an Alien which in 1946 proved a great success in post-war Britain.

"How to be an Alien" poked gentle fun at the English, including a one-line chapter on sex: "Continental people have sex lives; the English have hot-water bottles."

Subsequent books dealt with (among others) Japan ("The Land of the Rising Yen"), Israel ("Milk and Honey", "The Prophet Motive"), the U.S. ("How to Scrape Skies"), and the United Nations ("How to Unite Nations"), Australia ("Boomerang"), the British again ("How to be Inimitable", "How to be Decadent"), and South America ("How to Tango"). Other subjects include God ("How to be God"), his cat ("Tsi-Tsa") and wealth ("How to be Poor").

Apart from his commentaries, he wrote humorous fiction ("Mortal Passion"; "The Spy Who Died of Boredom") and contributed to the satirical television series "That Was The Week That Was".

His autobiography was called "How to be Seventy".

Serious writing included a book about the Hungarian Secret Police and he narrated a BBC television report of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. []


* [ Penguin Readers Factsheet]

elected bibliography

*"How to Be an Alien: A Handbook for Beginners and More Advanced Pupils" (1946)
*"How to Scrape Skies: The United States Explored, Rediscovered and Explained" (1948)
*"Wisdom for Others" (1950)
*"Milk and Honey: Israel Explored" (1950)
*"Shakespeare and Myself" (1952)
*"Uber Alles: Germany Explored" (1953)
*"Italy for Beginners" (1956)
*"How to Be Inimitable: Coming of Age in England" (1960)
*"How to Tango: A Solo Across South America" (1961)
*"Switzerland for Beginners" (1962)
*"How to Unite Nations" (1963)
*"Germany Laughs at Herself: German Cartoons Since 1848" (1965)
*"Eureka!: Rummaging in Greece" (1965)
*"How to Be Affluent" (1966)
*"Mortal Passion" (1976)
*"Boomerang: Australia Rediscovered" (1968)
*"The Prophet Motive: Israel Today and Tomorrow" (1969)
*"The Land of the Rising Yen: Japan" (1970)
*"Humour in Memoriam" (1970)
*"Any Souvenirs?: Central Europe Revisited" (1971)
*"The Spy who Died of Boredom" (1973)
*"How to Be Decadent" (1977)
*"Tsi-Tsa: The Biography of a Cat" (1978)
*"English Humour for Beginners" (1980)
*"How to Be Seventy: An Autobiography" (1982)
*"How to Be Poor" (1983)
*"How to Be a Guru" (1984)
*"How to Be God" (1986)
*"The Riches of the Poor: Who's WHO" (1987)


*"We Were There to Escape - the true story of a Jugoslav officer" (1945)
*"A Study in Infamy - The operations of the Hungarian Secret Police (AVO)" (1959)
*"Arthur Koestler; the story of a friendship" (1983)

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