The memoirs retold in the 10th meeting of “Oral History of Book”

Fourteen years of follow-up for a book

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


According to the website of Iranian Oral History, the 10th meeting out of the second round of the meetings “Oral History of Book” was the second session of talking with Mrs. Mahdieh Mostaqni Yazdi, the owner of Karnameh Publications and Roozbeh Zahraee, the son of the late Mohammad Zahraee, the late head of Karnameh Publications. The meeting was held with the attempt of Nasrollah Haddadi, a writer and researcher in the Institute of Book House on Wednesday 28th of June 2017.


The story of taking a license for Karnameh Publications

Mahdieh Mostaqni Yazdi said in the meeting, “For taking a license, I went to the Ministry of Guidance many times but to no avail; until the day when a ceremony was going to be held for awarding the prize of the Book of the Year to the book “The Fundamental Theory of Music” and Mr. Rafsanjani, the Minister of Guidance and other members had attended. I also took part in the ceremony and was very angry, because the book belonged to us. After the end of the ceremony, I ran for Mr. Rafsanjani and called him. Some of the people who accompanied him came to me and asked my demand. One of them who was a cultural member and related to my demand talked to me and eventually took a contact number from me and said he would call. Some one week later, they contacted me and made an appointment in the Ministry of Guidance on Friday. I went there and they asked me many questions about my family and Zahraee. About the political activities of my wife, I said that he had been punished for his political activities, but it had nothing to do with me. I said that I love my job and have come and gone to the Ministry of Guidance many times despite having four children one of whom disabled and that it is not fair that you have not given me a license because we are not going to do a wrongdoing, on the other hand you have enough power to stop the printing of a book in any stage. The book “Hafez by Sayeh” which belonged to us was published by Toos Publications, and so did the book “The Fundamental Theory of Music”. You treated so badly to us that we have to put our child on the four-ways and beg from the rest to adopt him and the others come and take him an ID card. They asked if we do not give a license what would you do. I gave an answer to them that I would never do it. But I said, “I have a disabled child, I would go to the parliament and set him and myself on fire! But before this, I inform the media and say we love this job, why do you do this with us? Finally, my follow-ups were concluded and got the license of Karnameh Publications and in fact the Karnameh Publications started its work since 1995 or 1996.”

Mostaqni Yazdi continued by saying, “Mohammad (Zahraee) was not obsessed with his work, but he had a special interest, love and accuracy in selecting a book and layout. Mohammad lived with books. He was not a wise man, because someone who loves his job so much cannot be a wise man. He loved his job.”


Time needs until the book is decocted!

In continuation of the 10th meeting out of the second round of the meetings “Oral History of Book”, Roozbeh Zahraee said, “The first book we printed in Karnameh Publications, was the second edition of (the book) Hafez (on Sayeh) in folio. Mohammad Zahraee believed that he was not obsessed with book designing, book processing and bookmaking but he did the right thing in this way. He believed that books should be produced less in number but first degree. He did not consider accuracy in his works as obsession but called it as being a perfect publisher. Mr. Zahraee believed in such principles at a time when he had not visited western countries. He had just seen only the product of the US and European bookmaking and book processing closely. The short period he had been trained in Franklin Publications had influenced in his view, taste, processing and the performance style of his book. Mr. Mohammad Zahraee changed something in the text only with the confirmation of the author and translator, and reformed and rewrote. He did not intervene in the text so that only a meaning was inferred from the text and that meaning was received immediately so that the text was not complicated and abstruse. This accuracy caused a long time was spent for preparing a book. Mr. Zahraee ended a book but it seemed that he was a stranger with it and talked nothing about the book. Even it can be said that he lost the book but later he said I have put it to be decocted! The author protested and told Zahraee that he has seen and confirmed the last part of the book, asking the reason why it has not been published. My father shirked delicately. Later, it became clear that he did it intentionally. After a while, I found out that he had done the right thing, because when we distance from a thing and then refer to it again after a while, it would be very new and on other hand we can see its error and goodness more. Regarding the long delay in publishing the works of authors and translators, Mr. Zahraee did something with delicate and subtle trick the result of which was one hundred percent win. But since we as the second generation of the family are dealing with well-known persons who are considered their children or nephews, have been forced sometimes to annul the contract due to delay in publishing the works of an author despite spending some 90 percent. The reason was that the author was in a hurry."

In continuation, he said, "In presence of me and other friends, Dr. Mohammad Ali Movahed said he was always surprised by Zahraee's choices. He selected the works on which we should not work in my view, because to me it was a waste of time, squandering Iranian cultural capital, but the feedback of such books was really amazing for me."


An exceptional hunter 

About the book of Mostatab-e Ashpazi (a cooking book), Roozbeh Zahraee said, "One night, we had been invited to the house of Najaf Darya Bandari for dinner. Mr. Rastkar had cooked a kind of fish which was very simple in appearance and put it on the table. After having dinner, she twinkled in a meaning way and turned to my father and said that the fish had a story and that you could ask its story from Najaf. My father was really an exceptional hunter, asking Daryabandari about it. But he evaded answering. Mrs. Rastkar said that Najaf was writing a cooking book but he abandoned it. Zahraee did not abandon the subject and with delicate and subtle tricks managed to turn the writings of Najaf Daryabandari which were some 50 pages into the book of Mostatab-e Ashpazi. It took some fourteen years till it turned into the cooking book. You cannot find even one single case in the book that belongs to someone else. Every photo, idea and text belongs to Karnameh Publications exclusively and of course the exceptional and powerful way of writing of Mr. Daryabandari which should not be forgotten. He was always whispering poems. My father and Mr. Najaf were always together and joking with each other about the book but the book's name had been selected but finally my father chose its name. He believed that the book's name has a great impact in attracting the audience. He had a good taste in this regard, and many consulted with him about the book's title."


Belief in group work

The senior son of Mohammad Zahraee added, "Mr. Zahraee said always, "My approach is collective!" This collective approach was the result of the tendencies he had in 1960s and then he dedicated himself in the way of culture and publication. He believed in collective work and wisdom. My father was a close friend of Mehdi Akhavan Saleth and when he died, the publishers were supposed to print a one-page ad in Hamshahri daily. The cost of the ad was very high. Mohammad Zahraee and to others in a meeting concluded that the money of the ad was spent on a festschrift for Mehdi Akhavan Saleth. Finally, Dr. Morteza Kakhi collected it and my father and two others shaped "Nashr-e Nasheran" or the publication of publishers. Nashr-e Nasheran included 12 publishers which should bear a book or a project together and then took a share from it. Nashr-e Nasheran published a second book titled “Isfahan” which is a collection of photos taken by Nasrollah Kasraeeian, but unfortunately the collective work in Iran is very hard even with close friends let alone 12 publishers which intend to publish a book. The development of publishing work has always been a concern for Zahraee. We published the two books in Karnameh publications and they were fully Zahraee’s idea, processing and view.”

About how his father passed away, Roozbeh Zahraee said, “My father had diabetes. On that day (his passing away), he was editing the book “The Disturbed Sleep of Oil: From Darsi Treaty to Fall of Reza Shah”. He passed out and asked for water. But till the friends go and bring water, he was taking his last breaths and although the ambulance arrived in less than five minutes, my father passed away on 18th of August 2013.

The first meeting out of the new round of the meetings of “Oral History of Book” was held on 12th of April 2017 attended by Haj Beitollah Radkhah (Mashma’ Chi), the Head of Tehran-Tabriz Publications, the second meeting on 19th of April 2017, attended by Jamshid Esmaeeliyan, the head of Parto Publications, the third meeting on 26th of April 2017 attended by Abolqassem Ashraf-al Ketabi, the head of Ashrafi Publications, the fourth meeting on 17th of May 2017 attended by Hojjat-al Eslam Biok Chitchian, the head of Mortezavi Publications, the fifth meeting on 23rd of May 2017 attended by Seyed Jalal Ketabchi, the head of Islamiyah Publications, and Seyed Fardi Ketabchi and Seyed Mohammad Baqer Ketabchi, the heads of Elmiyah Islamiya Publications, the sixth meeting on 30th of May 2017 again attended by Seyed Jalal Ketabchi, the head of Islamiyah Publications, and Seyed Fardi Ketabchi and Seyed Mohammad Baqer Ketabchi, the heads of Elmiyah Islamiya Publications and the 7th meeting on 6th of June 2017 attended by Morteza Akhundi, the Head of Dar al-Kotob al-Islamiyah Publications, the 8th meeting on Tuesday 13th of June 2017 again attended by Morteza Akhundi, the Head of Dar al-Kotob al-Islamiyah Publications, and the ninth meeting on 20th of June 2017 attended by Mahdieh Mostaqni Yazdi, the owner of Karnameh Publications, Makan and Roozbeh Zahraee, the sons of the late Mohammad Zahraee, the former head of Karnameh Publications. They were held in the Book House Institute.

Also, the first round of the meetings of “Oral History of Book” was held with the attempt of Nasrollah Haddadi in the Book House Institute since 2014 to summer 2015. The result of the meetings has been published in a book entitled “Oral History of Book” in 560 pages by the Book House Institute.

Number of Visits: 709


Full Name:
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