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Satirical Works must not be Time-Bound

July 2015

‘Humorous-Satirical Works’, written by Iranian artist Faramarz Ashenai Qasemi, 47, was unveiled at the 28th Tehran International Book Fair which took place from May 6-16 and was well-received by visitors.

Ashenai Qasemi received his PhD in mechanical engineering from Tehran’s Khajeh Nassir Tousi University of Technology. He is the head of academic and research journals’ publications office at Tehran’s Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University.

He worked as a satirist for ‘Gol-Aqa’ (Flower-Man) weekly news magazine. He has also translated many short articles and stories into Persian.

He set out to work for some other magazines and newspapers such as ‘Ettela’at’ (Information), ‘Tanz-e-Parsi’ (Persian Satire) and ‘Rooz-e-Haftom’ (Seventh Day). He also collaborated with ‘Mardom-o-Zendegi’ (People and Life) monthly.

More recently, ‘Humorous-Satirical Works’ has been translated into English. Iran Daily conducted an interview with Ashenai Qasemi.

Excerpts follow:

IRAN DAILY: When did you take up satire writing and how did you begin a career in ‘Gol-Aqa’weekly news magazine?

FARAMARZ ASHENAI QASEMI: My major was mechanical engineering: design of solids. I started my career as a satirist with ‘Donya-ye Varzesh’ (Sports World) magazine. I began writing columns rich in satire for the magazine. When I was just 25 years old, I became an editorial board member at ‘Gol-Aqa’ weekly news magazine and translated stories by famous foreign satirists into Persian. I also worked for some other magazines and newspapers such as ‘Persian Satire’, ‘Seventh Day’ and ‘Khabar-e-Jonoob’ (South News) newspapers. Furthermore, I was also among the writers and actors of a TV show called ‘Salam Ashena’ (Hello Familiar). Since I took up studies for PhD in 1996, I have been less active in this field in the past two decades. Most recently, I have compiled an anthology of my works in a book.

Which styles of expressing humor do you think are more effective?

In my opinion, pictures and images are more effective than other humor and satire works such as short pieces and stories.

What is the difference between humor and satire?

Satirists seek to make the readers think about a particular topic, but humor writers try to express objections on issues such as social conditions. Satire has a wide variety of genres, ranging from social, political and philosophical issues to mystical subjects.

What is the main weakness of satire writing in Iran?

Unfortunately, satirists deal with issues which do not appeal to the present generations. They make great efforts to convey issues meaningful to the present generation. Whenever, satire is merely contingent upon the news, the work will not last long.

At present, most of our satirists either focus on peripheral issues in the nuclear talks or on items which draw attention for only a few months. However, outstanding satirical works in Iran’s literature have dealt with issues related to human nature and thus will never go into oblivion.

‘Gol-Aqa’ was one of the Iranian satires which attracted a large audience. Why could its publication continue?

Gol-Aqa Artistic and Cultural Institute was published by Kiumars Saberi in 1990. After a short period of time, he developed the institute’s activities with the help of a diligent team of satirists, so that it was published on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.

Most of the satirists who were involved in ‘Gol-Aqa’ had previously worked for ‘Tofigh’ weekly satirical magazine and thus were good at their jobs.

Gol-Aqa’s audience jumped sharply. The newspaper also dealt with news in the form of satire as well as cartoons. I was responsible for the column in which short English satires were translated into Persian.

Gol-Aqa’s activities developed so that it was named ‘Iran’s House of Satire’ and began holding domestic and foreign competitions in the satire and caricature categories, training young satirists and publishing satirical and cartoon books.

Unfortunately, in 2008, the satirical newspaper could not continue its publication. I maintain that dealing with news was not the reason for the end to Gol-Aqa.

With the advent of technology, people were no longer interested in reading satires in weekly magazines. Perhaps, a little prudence to change the monthly magazine to a newspaper could have helped the magazine survive.

Your book ‘Humorous-Satirical Works’ was unveiled at the 28th Tehran International Book Fair. What does the book focus on and how was it received?

The book is a collection of works I published over the years. In addition, there are some unpublished works. The book was published by Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University and Rash Publications. The book is also available and sold in the largest Internet-based bookstore Amazon.

At first, the book was only published in Persian language. After a while, one of the foreign audiences responsible for psychoanalyzing depressed people called me and asked for the English version of the book.

He selected an English satire book each week and read them to his patients. He helped me make a decision on translating the book into English.

The English version was published by the Supreme Century publication and. Some 1,200 copies of the book have been sold worldwide.

How difficult was it to translate a satirical work on a specific culture into a different language and culture? Translation is, by nature, an awesome task, how can a translator change a satirical work to another language so that it will make the target audience laugh?

There is a collection of long-lasting satirical works in the world. A number of factors are effective in creating a global satirical work.

Perhaps, one subject which makes people in Iran laugh may not be so amusing to other nationalities. Subjects, such as human characteristics, which have a more global appeal are more common for satirical works.

In other words, as the first step, a book with a common global interest is good for translation. Next, a translator should have command over the target language.

Fortunately, realizing the aforementioned factors coupled with a meticulous team of translators helped me prepare the English book. Although the book was well received, the criticisms it drew might also be useful.

What is your advice to young satirists?

In the past, a few Iranians wrote satirical works. In contrast to the previous years, the number of Iranian young satirists has now increased. However, it should be noted that most prominent satirists were the elderly with extensive experience in the field.

At present, more attention should be paid to quality than quantity.

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