Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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August 05, 2011
problematic pigs persistently purveyed and purchased throughout central and eastern Europe

Among the many life-affirming, admiration-inspiring or hilarious moments in the obituary tribute to the late Adolfas Mekas, here, is the following quote from him, contributed by Pip Chodorov:

Why filmmaking has to be so difficult technically? Only the devil knows.

In Lithuania we had a saying: A woman had no problems in her life at all -- everything was beautiful. Then she bought herself a pig.

The saying is from Lithuania?

But not only from there, TiR's (ever pointless) research reveals:

“The woman had no problems, so she bought herself a pig.”

It’s a phrase my Grandmother used to say, in her native Ukrainian tongue.


Grandma had a funny saying she used when she bought something that was more trouble than it was worth. The English translation was, "The old woman never had any trouble until she bought herself a pig." I always thought it sounded better in Polish, but I can't remember it!

And how does the Russian saying go? If a woman had no troubles, she would buy herself a pig, or is it . . . A woman had no troubles until she bought herself a pig?

Anton Chekhov in particular seems to have loved this saying. As per a collection of his letters, here (.pdf):

If a peasant woman has no troubles, she buys a pig. We have bought a pig, too, a big cumbersome estate.
(March 1892)

The peasant woman had not troubles enough so she bought a pig. And I fancy we are saving up a lot of trouble for ourselves with this ice-free port. It will cost us dearer than if we were to take it into our heads to wage war on all Japan.
(April 1895)
(How prescient were Chekhov's above words? See here and here.)

Can all of these countries really have hosted so many naughty pigs? We envision an epidemic of troublesome, post-purchase porkers sowing ("sow"-ing?) disorder in farms and households throughout the former Eastern Bloc.

However, TiR prefers to imagine an alternate, "single pig" theory, whereby the Lithuanian woman in exasperation transferred ownership of the swine to an unwitting purchaser in the Ukraine, who soon remorsefully shipped it away for sale to an old woman in Poland, and so on. We see in our mind's eye one timeless, tireless, individual bringer of porcine chaos, vended and trading hands sequentially, among various old peasant women, from country to country, down through the decades.