Satire has been variously defined, throughout centuries, as 'a poem in which wickedness or folly is censured', 'the amendment of vices', 'reformation' or as 'a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own, which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.' In other words - satire enables people to laugh at their fellow man's foolishness while blissfully unaware that they're being fools themselves.
Is satire art?
The satirist is a kind of self-appointed guardian of standards, ideals and truth; of morals as well as aesthetic values. Satirists are people who take it upon themselves to correct, censure and ridicule the follies and vices of society and thus to bring contempt and derision upon aberrations from a desirable and civilized norm. Thus satire is a kind of protest, a sublimation and refinement of anger and indignation.
As Ian Jack once so adroitly put it: 'Satire is born of the instinct to protest; it is protest become art.'
What is the role of a satirist?
In Essays in Satire (1928) Ronald Knox likened the satirist to a small boy who goes about with a water pistol charged with vitriol. He also suggests that the satirist is a kind of spiritual therapist whose function is to destroy the root causes of the major diseases of the spirit, like hypocrisy, pride and greed.
Satire during the last century
During the 20th century satire was rare. Two of the main reasons for this lack are that the 20th century was a period of much instability and violent change, and the humour industry grew to such an extent that the satirist could hardly make himself felt except in the caricature and the cartoon. Sustained verbal satire of merit was very unusual, and verse satire almost nonexistent.
21st century satire
Cabbage, Strudel and Trams
An almost biographical and definitely riotous tale of adolescence begun behind the Iron Curtain, continued in a West German refugee camp and coming to a glorious end in the land Down Under.
Cabbage, Strudel & Trams tells the story of a young girl's turbulent journey from childhood to adulthood, of adolescence begun behind the Iron Curtain, continued in a West German refugee camp and coming to a glorious end in the land Down Under. Narrated by Franta, an imaginary friend inhabiting the inner world of our young heroine Vendula, this satirical coming-of-age tale depicts the trials and tribulations of an ordinary Czech family living in a small mining town in communist Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s, their escape to West Germany and their resettlement in Australia.
The story begins when the combined household of Zhvuk & Dribbler is thrown into chaos by the untimely defection of Uncle Stan to West Germany. With nothing but their damaged political profile to lose, the family decides to eventually follow in Uncle Stan's footsteps but not before puberty, free enterprise, unrequited love and things that only happen to other people shred our young heroine's heart. With charm, poise and a little grace, Franta navigates Vendula through the pitfalls of her teenage years, guiding her to discover her own identity. As shenanigans gather momentum, Franta's humorous insights into Vendula's loopy family: the assertive mother, the henpecked father, the enterprising granddad, the blissful grandma, the dissenting uncle and his circle of "freedom fighting" friends build a picture of the life of ordinary folk surviving the oppressive communist regime.
Well, even straw will eventually break the camel's back. Following a trip to the almighty Soviet "Onion" where rows of empty shop windows reveal the future all too clearly, the family escapes to West Germany. Unexpectedly, the refugee camp, a colourless shapeless blur on the edge of a dark, dark forest where only goblins live, is a "happy" kind of place in which tobacco chewing, nose picking, throat clearing, the occasional riot, and plentiful and uninhibited sexual exploits are the order of the day. Of course, life is not all beer and crackers for our heroes; having carved out some sort of an existence in the camp, new challenges arise when the family arrives in Australia.