A small book of Turkish Cypriot Jokes, collected and written down by Mustafa Gökçeoğlu. I keep it on my kitchen shelf together with other wise books to make me laugh when I am depressed or just tired. The cartoon on the cover is by Hüseyin Cakmak, one of our caricaturists. The translation into English is done by Seyhan Özmenek. The publisher is the Cyprus Turkish Education Foundation.
On 137 pages you find wise words and jokes told in the coffee houses where men meet and among women in the yards when plucking mulahiye. For example:
Those on refreshement training are taken to the field. The officer in charge commands:
“Start crawling, gentlemen.”
They all start crawling.
The officer changes commend:
“Start running, gentlemen.”
No one obeys the order. They continue crawling.
The officer is infuriated:
“Don’t ou know anything but crawling?”
One of them says:
“We are civil servants, officer.”
In order to introduce Mustafa Gökçeoğlu and his work to you, I would like to give you an abstract of my interview with him which will be published in my second volume of “Art and Creativity in North Cyprus” in 2011.
Language and folklore researcher, folk tales and essay writer and poet
Born in Gönyeli in 1942
An Archivist of Culture and Language
The first thing Mustafa Gökçeoğlu put into my hands was his Curriculum vitae and he said “There, all my life listed!” And I looked at it and I saw that apart from his date of birth his life began with the year when he was given a first prize for a short story in a competition in 1983 issued by the Municipality of Nicosia. “My official entry into the world of literature, and you know what I did with the prize money? I bought myself a type writer and nine bottles of whiskey,” and he laughs loud like the wicked youth he said he was then for a long time.
Gönyeli, a Turkish Cypriot town through and through since the beginning, and Mustafa Gökçeoğlu a Gönyelian through and through. We had met at the Hunting Club, the “Avcilar Kulübü” in the centre of Gönyeli where I sat waiting among early visitors playing cards or board games. He took me then across the village to his new house, where there is fresh air and quietness and the wonderful view to his beloved mountains. “I have several houses”, he said, “one up there in the mountains in a tiny village named Tis Labitu, a true original house and one in Gönyeli where all my many books are. What can I do, since my childhood I loved reading and when I later had the money, I acquired dictionaries in many languages, because being a writer and poet you need to know many things, at least you should know where to look things up.”
I had met Mustafa before at many opening evenings of art events where I observed him and I could realize the way everybody greeted him respectfully. He is a great man with short legs which - as it was explained to me before by a poet colleague of his - is the typical characteristic of Gönyelians. His head and his dark deep-set eyes remind me of a prophet and so does his strong voice which carries far. An all-embracing personality, I thought.
During our talk it became apparent that his entire interest lies with literature and the conserving of language………….
…..Some of his 22 books he has written are dictionaries containing his collections of language basics, folkloric treasures, such as proverbs, jokes, riddles, curses, nicknames, titles and sayings in use in daily Cypriot language. “They are part of our identity, all of it and the young generation does not know about it any longer, and not to forget the influence brought in by other people, then the media!”
Another one, well known joke:
There is a sparrow living in the church yard. It drinks water from the basin by the bell tower and then goes back to the bell and shits on it. The pastor of the church is sad bout this. One day he empties the water in the basin and fills it with wine. The bird drinks the wine and still shits on the bell.
In the end the pastor is really angry and asks the bird:
“Dear sparrow, there was water in the basin and you would shit on the bell. I filled it with wine and you would still shit on the bell. You can’t be a Christian as you dirty the bell and you drink wine so you can’t be Muslim. What are you then?”
“I am a Cypriot.”