I Laugh at the Topsy-Turvy World
Iranian satirist and regular contributor to “Rooz”, Ebrahim Nabavi received the Prince Claus Award for Culture and Development in the Netherlands. Nabavi 58 is an accomplished writer with 31 published books, including his Prison Memoirs. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2002 for what Iranian officials considered offensive writing. Two days before his arrest, he had been awarded a literary prize by Iranian officials. His speech in Amsterdam after receiving the award, titled as “I laugh at the Topsy-turvy World”, he conveys the message that satire is a global language that strives to make the world a better place for everyone.” The Prince Claus Award is named after Prince Claus of the Netherlands which is annually granted to promote cultural interaction and development. This year’s theme is satire and humour. READ MORE
This year’s major prizes were awarded to Jonathan Shapiro, one of the most successful South African cartoonists. Ten other satirists, comedians and cartoonists were also awarded 25,000 Euro cash prizes.
The following are excerpts of Ebrahim Nabavi’s speech at the award ceremonies:
Mr. Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to receive this award, first because a reputable artistic and cultural institution has acknowledged me and my work. Second, because this prize is not only a political gesture, but also carries technical value for me. And third, because the theme of the Claus foundation this year has been satire, something that I truly love while my mind and language are always engaged with it.
I also appreciate the efforts of this foundation which appreciates literature, the arts and culture. With our work, we make people of different nations laugh and for fleeting moments distance them from their daily routines, while also exposing them to the miseries of others.
This is a challenging work. But we are not mean people. The only thing we do is to remind people of their problems.
The politicians of today are so serious and frowning that if we do not do our job, people may actually forget that laughter and happiness also exist as an option. All of us here laugh at power, but of course the powerful do not like it. So they sometimes censor our work, and at other times they put us behind bars. But I have learned that even in prison one can laugh at the prison wardens. I write satire for prison wardens so that each one of them will be shameful of what he does.
In a world where wealth is used to make bombs and weapons, where misery has become a common phenomenon, where some angry men even tie bombs around themselves, we satirists strive to wipe off the tears of anguished people with kindness and happiness. In a world where poverty, discrimination, and tyranny are now masked and camouflaged with lies, our job is to unmask the smear. We do it to show the true faces of the powerful. In a world where mankind’s most beautiful gifts such as even religion and art are misused, we even remove the religious hypocrisy. I laugh, laugh, and laugh at the powerful and their cunningness. I write satire because our world is now topsy-turvy. I write to show this.
I devote the last part of my message to Akbar Ganji, my dear imprisoned friend and colleague. We should always be thankful to him for all that he has taught us through his example. Let us pray for a world that has no ideological or intellectual prisoners.