Humour has been celebrated as a way to cope with trauma – through disaster jokes, wartime humour and death-related humour in general, the joke-tellers alleviate the painful experiences and memories of these. But there is another side to this coin. Humour may trivialise the negative experience, especially because black humour is not only the priority of the victims. It can be shared by both those who lived through the trauma as well as those that caused it, e.g. the oppressors themselves. The way this trivialises the trauma is obvious: we laugh at others’ suffering, hence we don’t take it seriously.
Standard theories of humour state that in order for a situation to generate humour, a certain tension or conflict combined with some distance from it is needed. At the same time, humour has been created also under difficult situations and extreme danger, which is the case with war humour. Its format can vary – be it verbal or visual – but the content carries similar features. This article describes the main features of humorous reminiscence of the WWII in Estonian post-war comic books. I will look more closely at two such examples from a collection of Estonian life stories. The first is a comic fictitious life story titled “Refugee: Refugee life in pictures” published in a refugee camp in Germany in 1946, very popular at its time. The other was first published only in 2006, but written in 1948, and is a comic depiction of war-time life as seen by the author Raoul Edari who fled to Germany during WWII. The material will lend grounds to discuss the influence of trauma and its humorous representation.
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