Visiting the Head of Payam Publications in the 15th meeting of “Oral History of Book”

Memories of 54 years

Maryam Rajabi
Translate by M. B. Khoshnevisan

2017-08-15


According to the website of Iranian Oral History, the 15th meeting out of the second round of the meetings “Oral History of Book” organized by Nasrollah Haddadi researcher and the presenter of the show was held in the Institute of House of Book on Saturday 29th of July 2017. The show was attended by Mohammad Nik Dast, the Head of Payam Publications.

 

Destiny pushed me toward publication

In the meeting, Nik Dast said, “I was born on 24th of April 1947 in Rey Street. I am the oldest children of the family and we are seven brothers and sisters. My father was a capper, working in Lalehzar Street before Mr. Kolahchi. My mother passed away in 1958 due to illness and after that my father moved to Sepah Street to work. I was 11 at that time and the youngest member of our family was just 40 days old. Ameneh Kani the nephew of Haj Mollah Ali Kani and my cousin who was 22 years old took responsibility of taking care of us. It was a hard job and demanded high commitment. But she accepted it. I spent the elementary school period in the schools Rahnama and Etesam in Adib al-Mamalek Street. Then, I went to Behbahani Professional Technical School in Siroos Three-Way, studying there for three years. I entered the working market at the age of 16 due to the hard living conditions. Since I had studied in technical field, I liked to find a technical job, but destiny pushed me toward other thing.     

After the uprising of 15th of Khordad (June 6, 1963), the country’s conditions were very hard. A friend introduced me to the shop of Akbar Elmi in Shah Abad Street accidentally. Mr. Ketabi was the head of the shop. The Organization of Textbooks was set up in that year and the high school books were uniformed. We worked from 8 AM to 9 PM in the summer. Akbar Elmi paid us 90 tomans per month as salary. The textbooks were changed in that year. Akbar Elmi was the Managing Director of the Organization of Textbooks. He had an equipped and large printing house. He was not an organized man and the books came to the shop instead of going to the company.  I and one of my friends had to work round-the-clock because the books were brought at nights and the rest of colleagues left for their houses at around 10 or 11 PM since they were married. We two stayed for doing the works. We received the books both from the factory and the company, organizing them in the shop and distributed in the mornings. The bookshops selling textbooks came and sold them. There were few bookshops at that time and most of them sold stationeries. They were located around the city. At any rate, the state of textbooks was unorganized. The situation continued until February and I worked day and night. My salary was still 90 tomans and just I was given the launch. I told Mr. Ketabi, “The salary is very low for me.” He answered, “I will receive the wage of your hard and overtime works from Elmi. I told Mr. Elmi a few days later, “I Have worked here and you must give my wage. In response, he said, “I have not forced you to work here! You can leave here!” I left there in March. I had a good relation with the colleagues. So I left there with sadness”.

 

Activity in Andisheh and Azar publications

He continued, “Ahmad Reza Ahmadi (poet) cooperated with his uncle Ahmad Ahmadi in Andisheh Publications. He asked the reason for my sadness and I told him the story. He asked me whether you liked to work before us. I accepted and started working on the same day. Andished Bookshop was adjacent to Elmi Bookshop. There were numerous bookshops in Shah Abad (street) like Khayam, Pirooz, Eshraqi, Amir Kabir, Zavar, Bonyad, Nil, Siroos, Safi Ali Shah and others. I learned many things in Elmi Bookshop, becoming familiar with textbooks. Since it had stationery, I also became familiar with its market. I knew books like “What do I know”, the book series of Mohammad Msoud, Divan-e Sho’ara (poetical works), historical books and so on. Andisheh Bookshop was a good place for me. The late Ahmad Ahmadi who was the head of the shop was very active and accurate. There, I became familiar with people of pen, book working, printing houses, typesetting, and book binding. I worked in Andisheh bookshop for about one year.

The book marketing did not prosper in the summer of 1963. There, I became familiar with Morteza Azimi. He worked in Dehkhoda Publications before his brother Mahmoud Azimi. Morteza Azimi was coming to Elmi Bookshop, providing civil rights books authored by Dr. Seyed Hasan Emami (published by Islamiyah Publications). When I worked in Andisheh bookshop, Mr. Azimi got a shop in front of Tehran University and installed the sign of Azar Publications. He asked me to go there and cooperate with them. I was very interested in the university environment and for this reason, accepted his suggestion, and started working before Moreza Azimi in 1965. There, I used whatever I had learnt from Elmi and Andisheh publications. We were almost at the same age and he was young at that time. I could come out of Andisheh Publications hardly because Ahmad Ahmadi was not willing and knew what I was going to do. He did not know where I was until a year after I was working in Azar Publications. Mr. Ahmadi was very kind to me and the environment of his publications was very good. I started the work of publication in Azar publications. I looked for university books, got books from the university professors, and followed up their works by myself, because Mr. Azimi was not so familiar with this job. We had taken Dr. Zandi's economic books. The translators of Guyton's physiology had invested and published the first edition. For the next printings, we went and contracted with them and republished the book."

 

Selling clandestine books and imprisonment

This veteran publisher said, "Mr. Azimi was a very emotional person and his involvement in political issues was the main reason for his financial problems. However, this did not happen until 1969 when I was working before him. He spent some of his money for charity affairs. We printed a work from Hamid Mosadeq which consisted of ten long poems from ten well-known contemporary poets which had a good market. Parviz Assadi came there and helped us. We published several books with his cooperation.  Mr. Azimi did not come to work and we usually handle there. When Davood Mussaee came, I became sluggish because he was very smart and talented. I was arrested two times in the years 1965 and 1966 for selling clandestine books since I started working before Mr. Azimi, and imprisoned in Qezel Aql'eh Prison. Mr. Jarchi printed the books of Tudeh Party secretly. The book market was very dull in Azar publications and he sold 10 to 15 tomans of books per day. When I brought such clandestine books, the students bought them. I was detained for about one or two weeks and then released me, but this record was registered for me. I was the cellmate of Davood Musaee who was very young in one of the prisons."

Nik Dast continued, "I worked before Morteza Azimi for four years. Then the lands in front of the university were built and I could buy Daneshjoo Bookshop form Mr. Malamel conditionally. My father still worked as a capper during all these years. My father gave 25 tomans and my aunt 20 tomans to me to buy the shop at the price of 90 tomans. I had myself had 5 tomans and for the rest, gave promissory notes. I paid 3000 tomans to Mr. Malameh per month. When I bought the shop form Mr. Malamel, there was no guild issue, but later it was brought up. When I got the shop, it was named to my father in order to be inherited to my brothers.  I got a shop adjacent to Zoroofchi Shopping Center in 1974.  

 

The launching of Payam Publications

He said, "When Zoroofchi was building the shopping center, his steward came to my shop to use phone and I gave him the phone. I became familiar with his steward little by little. After a while, he offered me to buy one of the shops. I really did not think of having another shop, but a man named Aqa Kalantary who was a very good man, took me before Zoroofchi to talk to him. Everything happened accidentally. Mr. Zoroofchi signed a contract with me. He sold a shop to me at 500 tomans. I paid 200 tomans within a year and the rest was paid in 10 tomans installments per month. Zoroofchi was really a good man. He told me you did not need to pay the installments as long as you did not start working in the shop. I prepared my shop in 1974 and was going to open it but no business license was given.

Javad Eqbal was the head of the union. He said that I had a complainant and had to gain the consent of colleagues. I got the consent of Mr. Tahoori and other colleagues. My complainant was Mr. Abdolrahim Jafari. Our shop was very far from Jafari's shop and but he was opposed and did not consent.  Mr. Jafaro attributed to a law. I had a private meeting with him in this connection and he still stressed that it was his legal right. Mr. Tahoori was a nice man and had no problem with me."

 

Becoming familiar with great authors and translators

Nik Dast stated, "Parviz Assadi almost made me familiar with the other authors. When I made familiar with Karim Keshavarz, I made friend with him. He introduced me to Mr. Najaf Darya Bandari and Mr. Darya Bandari introduced me to Fereydoon Adamiyat.  Fereydoon Adamiyat was going ot republishe the book "The thoughts of Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani". Mr. Najaf Darya Bandar made an appointment and introduced me to him. We had lunch in Roudaki Hotel and then went to Adamiyat's house in Vali-e Asr Street. He said that he wanted 20 percent of author's right and I agreed. After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Adamiyat's books were given permission hardly or not given at all. Mr. Zahraee cooperated with us since 1972. He did my accounting works and was really clever. Mohammad Zahraee acted as a go-between through the connections he had in Mahshhad to get the agreement of Mr. Sadr Vaseqi for giving his book to me for publication. When I worked in Andisheh Publications, I became familiar with Franklin Publications. There, I also got familiar with Karim Emami and Asgahr Mohajer. When I launched Payam Publications, Karim Emami told me that we had the book "Islam in Iran". I took it to publish. It had a good reaction in the community. In fact, the book was at the hand of Franklin Publications but they were not willing to publish it. They also handed over the book's concession. After it was published for two times, we returned the concession to Mr. Keshavarz. Parviz Assadi Zadeh was really a wise man and studied a lot. He extracted the book "Movement of Khorasan's Sarbedaran" from inside the book "Land Ties" and we published it. He also had a book titled "The Parthian" which was also published by us. I followed up the book "History of Iran" and went to Social Sciences College. At that time, Ehsan Naraqi worked there. Mr. Naraqi handed over the book's concession to Mr. Keshavarz. We also published the book "Orthography of Sultan Ali Mahshadi" which Mr. Keshavarz loved it very much."

 

"His Eyes" and 15 days in solitary confinement!

He added, "In 1972 when I had just married and my wife was with child, one of the vendors had published the book "His Eyes" authored by Bozorg Alavi. Mohammad Zahraee bought all of them together. When I came inside the shop, I saw that the book's boxes were in the middle of the shop. I asked Zahraee whether these were white cover books and illicit?! He said, "I will put them in order! A vendor whose face had been burnt and named Heidar gave the books to him. The next day, Javad Eqbal called and asked me whether I had printed "His Eyes". I said no. He said the book had come out of your shop. I said that I had not printed it. He said that Mr. jafari has said the issue. I said I had not done this. A few minutes later, Mr. Jafari called and asked me why I had published the book. I expressed my lack of knowledge. Two days later, the SAVAK agents came and took me to (the detention center) of the (Anti-Sabotage) Joint Committee, the conditions here was different than Qezel Qaleh Prison. I was interrogated about the book and its publication. I again expressed my lack of knowledge. I was in solitary confinement for some 10 to 15 days and then I was brought for interrogation. This time, the interrogation was serious. I was told that you had opened a hangout for the campaigners and revolutionaries in the publications. Then, I was transferred to the women's prison, fastening me to the bed and received me warmly! Whatever they did I said that I knew nothing. I said to myself that if I said one word, I would stay there for a long time. Hossain Namini known as Hossein Cherik or guerrilla printed the books. My father had familiar persons because he was sewing uniformed hats. In the appointment, my wife said that Hossain had also been arrested. Apparently, they had confessed and I was released 45 days later. Then I returned to my work. Mr. Zahraee cooperated with us until 1976."

 

The book which won Royal Prize, but was not allowed to be published!

Nik Dast continued, "The Book "History of Medes" harmed me a lot. Ehsan Yar Shater allowed Mr. Keshavarz to publish the book for one time. Mr. Keshavarz did not have good financial conditions. The book won the Royal Prize in 1967, but he had not gone to receive his prize. Ehsan Yar Shater helped Keshavarz translate the book and receive the right of translation. I agreed to print the book in 11000 copies. It was a very heavy work. I started this in 1976 and a year later, the printing was finished. Ehsan Naraqi reviewed the book and said that it was not publishable, while it had been printed in the Company of Book Publication and Translation, winning the Royal Prize. There was a ribbon on the book showing it had won the prize in order to add to the book's credit. It was a hard work and lots of money had been invested for its publication. So, I hustle a lot. Ali Asghar Haj Seyed Javadi who worked in Ettela'at Daily formed a roundtable and we gathered. I explained my conditions, but Ehsan Naraqi changed his mind. Haj Seyed Javadi defended me very much. But the meeting ended inconclusively. Later, the country's situation changed in a way that the Ministry of Culture and Art lost its power and we could publish the book. It was almost concurrent with the revolution and the books were not sold and a large of number of them was stolen."    

 

The printing of two books and SAVAK's interrogation

He added, "I published a book titled "We do not hear" authored by Gholam Hossain Sa'edi which had mocked the White Revolution and the Shah; it's a short film script. We printed the book in 1970 and for this book, we were engaged with SAVAK. I also printed a book written by Ali Asghar Haj Seyed Javadi titled "The Principles of Culture in the Third World" which was sold without permission. I was interrogated by SAVAK for the two books. When I was freed, I republished "We do not hear". I also printed the book "Battleship Potemkin".

Nik Dast said, "My books in the shop had its own special audience. I got familiar with Hossein Aboutorabian through this way.  I printed "The Mission of Americans in Iran" and "Aqabekov Memoirs" translated by him. At that time, his translation was criticized but he said that it was his own interpretation of the book."

 

I am still a publisher

In continuation of the 15th meeting out of the second round of the meetings “Oral History of Book”, Mohammad Nik Dast said, "Bookselling was very difficult during the revolution years and after that. There was shortage of paper, and some of the colleagues gave their books to the black market. I did not like such things. I signed a contract with Tehran University in 1999 and sold the Payam bookshop in 2000. Perhaps the main reason for making such a mistake was that my children did not like the work of publication. Although I had trained necessary things to my older son, he migrated to England and my second son who had studied in Civil Engineering said that he would not be involved in publication even for five minutes. After selling the shop, I moved to the third floor of a building in Farvardin Street and continued publication. Here, I republished books like "Jurisprudence and Iranian Word" and "The Parthian". I also printed a book about Iran's orchard which is very valuable as well as a series of books about urban development and architecture."

He added, "I am a member of the Union of Booksellers and Publishers. The Union was just a symbol before the revolution which did almost nothing, but after the revolution, it works very better. One of the good activities of the union is the removal of tax form the guild."

Nik Dast said, "I regret that Ebn-e Sian Publications was shut down. At a time when nobody knew what the book was, Ebn-e Sina printed valuable works. If I am born once again, I will study certainly in order to continue bookselling."

He went on by saying, "My brother Ali continued publication in the first shop I had opened and launched Peyvan Publications. Later, a company bought the whole real estate and the building. I have heard that it had been transferred to Babak Zanjani. We could not help doing this because the shop belonged to my father and on the other hand, he had died and in fact, the issue of inheritance was brought p. They seized Sepehr and Peyvand bookshops. Azar Publications resisted and finally bought it at a higher price.

The new round of the meeting "Oral History of Book" have been held in the Book House Institute as follows:

 

The first meeting 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

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,

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

The tenth meeting on Wednesday 28th of June 2017 re-attended by 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 eleventh meeting on Tuesday 11th of July 2017 attended by Mohammad Reza Najian Asl, the Head of Rasa Publications

The twelfth meeting on Sunday 16th of July 2017 attended by Mohammad Reza Jafari, the Head of Nashr-e No (new publication)

The thirteenth meeting on Tuesday 18th of July 2017 attended by attended by Mohammad Reza Najian Asl, the Head of Rasa Publications

The fourteenth meeting on Tuesday 25th of July 2017 attended by Mohammad Reza Jafari, the Head of Nashr-e No (new publication)

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: 107


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