Hungarian born British journalist living in London, England until his death in 1987. He was born in Siklós, exactly on this day 110 years ago. Mikes studied law and received his doctorate in 1933. He worked for ”Reggel” (Morning) and other Budapest newspapers. In 1938 he moved to London to be a correspondent of the Hungarian newspapers Reggel and “8 Órai Újság” (8 o’clock news)
After 1933, the German Jewish refugees who came to his home in Hungary for assistance made a huge impact on him. So, in 1938, when Mikes was assigned to London to cover the Munich Crisis and was only scheduled to stay for a few weeks, he decided not to return to Hungary and instead stayed in England, barely one year before World War II broke out. From 1939 to 1940, he worked for the BBC’s Hungarian Service, with the exception of his imprisonment as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man in 1940.
During World War II, while living in exile in England, he broadcast to Hungary for the BBC but also wrote political cabaret for the London Podium, a Hungarian theatre in London at the time, in partnership with Hungarian-born composer Matyas Seiber. First as a freelance correspondent, he also made documentaries for the BBC Hungarian section from 1939, and then as an employee from eleven years later. In 1946, he was granted British citizenship. He returned to Hungary in 1956 to cover the Hungarian Revolution for BBC TV. He also worked for Radio Free Europe’s Hungarian section from 1975.
He published How to Be an Alien in 1946, which went into thirty editions and established the author as a humorist writer, despite the fact that he had not intended the book to be funny. His bibliography includes the books Über Alles, Little Cabbages, Shakespeare and Myself, Italy for Beginners, How to Unite Nations, How to be Inimitable, How to Scrape Skies, How to Tango, The Land of the Rising Ten, How to Run a Stately Home (with the Duke of Bedford), Switzerland for Beginners, How to be Decadent, Tsi-Tsa, English Humour for Beginners, How to be Poor, How to be a Guru, and How to be God. Besides fiction he is the author of an analysis of the Hungarian secret police system with the title “A Study of Infamy”, but he also wrote about his best friend with the title”Arthur Koestler: The Story
of a Friendship”. He is the author of many other fiction and non-fiction books too, including his autobiography, How to be Seventy, which was published in 1982 on his seventieth birthday.
He is regularly cited by later authors, notably Kate Fox and Jeremy Paxman, as a keen observer of the behaviour and misbehaviour of foreigners and natives in Britain. In most of his books, he worked with Nicholas Bentley as an illustrator. In 1987, he died in London.
He married twice and had a son and a daughter from the two marriages.
“THE trouble with tea is that originally it was quite a good drink. So a group of the most eminent British scientists put their heads together, and made complicated biological experiments to find a way of spoiling it. To the eternal glory of British science, their labour bore fruit. They suggested that if you do not drink it clear, or with lemon or rum and sugar, but pour a few drops of cold milk into it, and no sugar at all, the desired object is achieved. Once this refreshing, aromatic, oriental beverage was successfully transformed into colourless and tasteless gargling-water, it suddenly became the national drink of Great Britain and Ireland — still retaining, indeed usurping, the high-sounding title of tea.” (How to be an Alien, George Mikes, 1946)