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Page 1

Tehran International Book Fair
Celebrating 20 Years of Ignoring the Jew-Hating Elephant in the Living Room

by Jason Roth

I am shocked. As of March 28, 2007, the English homepage of the official site of the Tehran International Book Fair has not been updated since 2004. You'd almost think the lazy bastards are too busy torturing British naval officers to do some basic HTML coding. There's gotta be somebody with a rudimentary knowledge of web design who doesn't necessarily need to be tying prisoner blindfolds.

After all, 2007 is a year to celebrate. This May is the 20th anniversary of the first Tehran International Book Fair. Since 1987, a thousand book publishers from around the world have gathered at the Tehran Permanent Fairgrounds on the Shahid Chamiran Expressway to display their wares in the hopes of further penetrating the Iranian and other local book markets. And, this year, only 16 publishers (from Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan) have been banned from exhibiting for promoting "superstition and untrue religious issues and damag[ing] the unity in the world of Islam". It's so sweet, it almost makes me want to send flowers to Iran.

By the way, what do you get for the Islamofascist who has nothing? How about a white-carnation Star of David? Better yet, smuggle in a ranunculus asiaticus or two. Apparently, the cell walls in their roots look just like a Star of David under a microscope. That'll really piss them off. And throw in a box of chocolates filled with booze. Just make sure your sweetheart kneels towards Mecca while she eats them. You don't want to have to get up all the way out of your chair to beat her. Nothing spoils a Sunday afternoon's camel races like bruised knuckles.

Since it's almost April and the Iranians still haven't posted this year's official rules for exhibiting at the book fair, here's the key passage from the 2006 rules:

"Display and/ or sales of books containing immoral pictures, materials offensive to religious and lslamic [sic] values, books that promote religious divisions and animosity, or encourage racism or Zionism, or undermine the interests of the lslamic [sic] Republic of Iran are prohibited."

In case you're wondering why the "sics" have been inserted above, it's because they used a lowercase "L" to start the word "Islamic". No shit, check the page yourself. In one case, they even accidentally typed "The Ministry of Culture & Lslamic Guidance". They're not consistent, though, because I see that the correct spelling is used in this important sentence:

"Similar to pavilion A, in this pavilion too, books should not be in contradiction with Islamic values and principles and also territorial integrity of the I.R. of Iran."

Why, you might ask, would Western publishers tolerate this sort of nonsense? Here are some of the professional-grade rationalizations you'll hear in the publishing industry:

  • "Knowledge knows no boundaries."

    Also known as:

    "Knowledge that we can help prop up religious dictatorships with our effort, money, and moral sanction sure as hell isn't constrained by the boundaries of our brains. This knowledge seems to leak right out."

  • "If we don't sell them books, someone else will."

    Or, as I like to put it:

    "If we don't sell them books on how to better support their infrastructure of tyranny, someone else will. Therefore, I can live with myself when I consider the possibility that some Islamofascist thug is perfecting his torture and terrorism techniques using the books I've sold him."

  • "The information is already 'out there', so no harm done."

    Or, as I like to say:

    "There is absolutely no useful information to be gained in the books we publish when they're purchased by Iranians, but when the next European Nobel Prize winner in physics publishes a book with us, then goddamn it, are we fucking moral heroes or what? Somebody pat me on the back. My book about new and improved ways of splitting the atom only helps the good guys build bombs."

Curious what happened 20 years ago, other than the first Tehran International Book Fair? Here are a couple interesting tidbits:

  • "Admiral John M. Poindexter, former National Security Adviser, testifies he authorized use of Iran arms sale profits to aid Contras (July 15-22)."

    Books about arms don't seem all that dangerous compared to, say, arms. Publishers who did business in Tehran in 1987 were amateurs compared to the US Government. (I know: "the enemy of my enemy...", etc., etc. I'm familiar with the bullshit.)

  • Another peaceful protest by Muslims ended in 402 or so people dying in a riot, this particular one occurring in Mecca: "When news of the riot and deaths reached Iran the following day, mobs attacked the Kuwaiti and Saudi embassies in Tehran, the two countries that were allied with Iraq in its war against Iran... The following day, over a million Iranians gathered in Tehran calling for the overthrow of the sheikh of Saudi Arabia."

    Publishers exhibiting at the 20th annual book fair should consider selling another peaceful book: the Koran.

Maybe while all those publishers are in Tehran, they can pick up their kids some Iranian children's books. According to this article entitled "Chinese welcome Iranian children's books" (as opposed to the United States, the Chinese evidently trade arms for children's books), one Iranian children's story published in the early 1980s was called "Pearl Fish". From what I can tell, this is definitely a story worth reading to your kids.

Although I wasn't able to locate any information about the story itself, I was able to find out more about its main character, the pearlfish:

"Pearlfish are highly modified eel-like fishes which lack scales and pelvic fins... Pearlfish enter the body cavities of sea cucumbers through their anus. When it tries to enter the body cavities of the sea cucumber it closes its anus, but as sea cucumbers breathe through their anus it must eventually open and in swims the pearlfish. Juvenile pearlfish are parasitic, feeding upon the gonads of sea cucumbers."

Sounds like the Iranians have created a delightful fable, don't you think? Peter the Pearlfish, the pearlfish who could, the pearlfish who tried and tried, and wouldn't let any sea cucumber keep him waiting outside of an anus, alone and hungry, without a single gonad to munch on.

When in Tehran, do as the Iranians do and get your kids a good pearlfish book. But, when in India, find yourself a good place to eat it. I must say that it might be better for your kids' stomachs than their brains.

You might be interested to know that the seed that spawned this entire, rambling piece was a news story posted on the aptly named IranMania:

Iranian publishers against relocating 'Book Fair'

I'm heartened to know that 18 Iranian cultural and publishers guild associations can come together to fight this potentially gross injustice. That traffic congestion would ever be the cause of destroying a 20-year tradition in Tehran is unthinkable. Please, President Ahmadinejad, let the book fair proceed as planned in Tehran. All those cars honking and taxi drivers shouting "Allahu Akbar" really help drown out the irritating sounds of torture victims' screams before they reach all those publishers' virgin ears.

Please, President Ahmadinejad, the Book Fair needs that traffic congestion.

Did you have an opinion on this? Then post a comment.

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