“The oral history of book” narrated by the manager of Contemporary Dictionary Publication

Some memoirs of production and publication of bilingual dictionaries (Part I)

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by Fazel Shirzad


Note:As Iranian oral history's website reported, the 21st meeting of second course of meeting about "the oral history of book" was the second interview with Dawood Mousai who is the manager of Contemporary Dictionary Publication. This meeting was held by effort of Nasrollah Haddadi, the writer and researcher, in House of Writers and House of Book on 21th Shahrivar 1396(2017-September-12)


I tried to take steps forward in the planning

In the beginning of meeting, Dawood Mousai told about the publication of books whose covers are white during Iran's revolution:" I wasn’t a publisher in those days, and the other hand, those who published such books didn’t believe these kinds of thoughts. In fact, there were publisher more for the books of leftist group; they paid attention on commercial purposes more than belief ones. In those years, I had a book binding store, and I commercially wanted to publish the books, but I should have a belief in my job to work accurately. I knew it was a temporary work, and it would be stopped after few months. It, of course, was taken place. Many of publishers became rich in this way but I was not optimistic about the fate of publishers; they, finally, weren’t successful in their job. When a job has no basis and foundation, typically it won't be ended successfully."  

He told about the revolution days and large members of publication:" I wasn’t in good situation on my job and I didn’t gain profit in this field because my bookbinding store was organized for a special purpose. I try to take steps in the planning on my job. Initially, I indexed the books. Next, I constituted a bookbinding store. Then I established a printing office, and all of my provided equipment was for this career. In those days, many of books were made by a thin and coated paper; I didn’t have equipment for such covers and made cover manually, and there was any work to do at the office. That was why my office was mostly closed although, perhaps, many of people was working at offices full time.


The story of publishing Hayyim Dictionary

Mousai added:" many of works in our country are being taken place accidentally. It means, I thought about my job a lot, and I said me if I indexed or bound books, I would need to get help of the publisher anyway. So, it was possible that the publishers didn’t give back my book for any reason, or it was possible it caused rivals to publish the book at a lower price, therefore, I thought, before revolution, that I should be as a client of me, because if I published the book in this way, I wouldn’t be success in my purpose.

The revolution of Iran was taken place. As I worked with Yehuda Brukhim, when he went abroad, I thought that I could get a permission for publishing dictionaries using those equipment because I had always aspirated to do it. In those days, I had a car; Mr. Brukhim, around noon, wanted me to get him his house. When we got on the car, as I was 21 years old, I asked him why he didn’t want to do so-and-so, and he replied that it wasn’t possible; I always thought  if I achieved growth in my career, I would do that works which he didn’t interest to do them. That was why I tried to find the owner of Hayyim dictionaries' right and publish these dictionaries.

Someday, when I went to book store of Brukhim to deliver works. I found an honorable man and the daughter of Brukhim arguing about the tight of authorship. I heard what they were saying and found that all rights of dictionaries wasn’t belonged to Brukhim; late Hayyim was the owner of the book and received the fee of authorship from Brukhim. As soon as that man came out of the store, I followed him and said that I was binding books for Mr. Brukhim for ages, and I also seek his reason of arguing with Brukhim. He said:" I am executer of late Hayyim, and Mr. Brukhim give a monthly fee to us as the right of authorship, now he claims that the dictionaries are being published by everyone and they are as pirated books; so, we can't pay any fee as the right of authorship." I asked that man for his phone number and called him next day and introduce myself completely. Everyone, with a minimal intelligence, knew that a revolution country needed a long time, about 10 or 20 years, to be organized; I was sure that the family of Brukhim won't return to Iran. I said the man that I was ready to publish the dictionaries and pay more than the amount which I had already received. He was surprised. When I conversed with him more, I realized that he was the nephew of late Hayyim. He told about his uncle who had worked for this dictionary, and while he was on deathbed in hospital, he was worried about his dictionaries and wanted the dictionaries not to be forgotten. As I was concerned about the dictionaries, I wanted to do some works; therefore, I made an agreement with the family of Brukhim. Of course it was taken place hard. This story lasted for two years and a half or three years. Even, when I consulted with my coworkers about the agreement, they said me that I was crazy to do it. They me that I should published the book under the counter as other publishers. I always believe in normative works in my life. At that time, I spent a large amount of many to publish the book, and I also engaged with Mostazafan Foundation.[1]"

Mousai told about spread rumor of seizing the properties of Brukhim as they were demanded by Mostazafan Foundation:" the properties of Brukhim were seized, but the right of dictionaries belonged to the family of Hayyim. Mr. Brukhim wanted to buy the right of book, but he knew that Mr. Hayyim should be beneficiary from the book, and it was a positive task politically, morally and so on. I got a lawyer and, finally, Mostazafan Foundation was condemned, but it claimed that there were lots of movies belonged to Mr. Brukhim and I was using them. I paid one million and seven hundred thousand Toman[2] to Mostazafan Foundation, and it was a large amount of money in those days. I sold the binding workshop and received seven hundred thousand Toman meantime, some of false friends and coworkers informed to Mostazafan foundation that I was Jewish, and according to a custom which Jewish people only accept Jewish one; therefore, it was supposed that the family of Hayyim gave the right of book to me because of being Jewish, that was why the boss of Mostazafan Foundation said me if I was Muslim, I should bring document to prove my words. I gave him the identity of all of my family members with two papers of Martydom of my cousins named Nabiollah Mousai and Dawood Mousai. When the boss of Foundation found me a Muslim, he became unhappy and wanted to mollify me and seek my consent; therefore, he assisted me and  received a cheque for one million from that one million and seven hundred thousand to return him as a periodic payment about 50 thousond Toman monthly, and I got recognition for my rights. Around the year 1363(1984) and 1364(1985), I solved my problems. In Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, some of false coworker spread rumor that I was a Zionist while I had never seen Israel in my lifetime.

The publication of Hayyim dictionary had been lasted from 1358 (1979) to 1363(1984) I found those who was publishing the dictionaries under-the-counter, and I made a relation with them with no complain, and received their movies and zincs. When I publishing the dictionaries, they were so nice and tidy that the pirated dictionary looked valueless versus my dictionaries; they were not able to compete with my dictionaries and went out.


The welcome of people to Quren

Mousai added:" when the revolution of Iran was taken place, I had sold the binding store and index workshop was also out of work. I had a Quern at home too. I took some Qurans and indexed them based on the order of sura. I took permission of Ayatollah Meshkini and Ayatollah Montazeri, and they signed and said I had permission to index Quran. They praised me a lot to it, and wrote on the corner of Quran's paper that it was a godly work and it helped people to find sura easily. For a short time, I indexed Quran and it was also profitable and people welcomed it as well."


A new dictionary with new vocabulary

Mousai told:" around the year 1355(1976) and 1356(1977), I asked Mr. Burkhim why he didn’t updated the dictionaries. I knew that western countries have been already updating products, and each one had a determined time, then it would be expired if you are not able to do a newer work; so, your work would be looked as a repeated one, and you cannot improve yourself. That is an event occurred to everybody in our country. In 1361(1882) and 1362(1983), all of works were done and finished, I wasn't in a good financial situation. In the critical situation of country, I thought myself that the life of people would be never stopped, and some ones would be probably interested in learning English. Although nobody was allowed to go abroad, I thought myself that it was impossible for a country to put its affairs in order itself; it wouldn’t be joined to world society someday; therefore, I met Mr. Karimi Emami as a first one. He was of the best linguists of iran and the editor of Keyhan English newspaper. Infect, I always use of all of my abilities to an interested work. Mr. Emami told me that I should be wait for a while. But I was thinking that Amir Kabir publication was confiscated, and I was going to use opportunity in the best way because of Amir Kabir publication's fault or inaction in the work. I knew that "oldness" was only charge brought against Hayyim dictionaries versus Aryan pour.  I wanted to renew them to be kept from any charge.

At first, I gave two-volume dictionaries to Mr. Emami and said him if they were updated, other dictionaries could be updated as well. Karim Emami told that we could update the two-volume dictionaries in three ways; first, let's modernize the appearance, letters etc. Second, some vocabularies should be removed and added new ones. I didn’t agree to remove vocabularies, I had an idea that the old vocabularies could be removed abroad because there were a variety of resources, but we hadn’t any resource in Iran; that was why we shouldn’t remove old vocabularies. Then, he accepted my idea. Third, the dictionary should be edited and changed totally to have a new one. At last, he said if you chose one of these three ways, he wouldn’t do it because if he wanted to try hard to renew a dictionary, why would it be named Hayyim? So, he could published it in his name; I couldn’t convince him, in fact I failed in a hard way. I referred to Mr.Baha al-Din khoramshahi and he also didn’t accept my idea. In 1363, someone came from England and became a professor in Iran. He had educated in the field of linguistic. His name was Ali-Mohammad Haghshenas. I spoke with him, and he told me that it was a cool idea and he could do it. He said that his wife was from Ireland and could get help from her in some cases. Also, he said that he had a friend named Mohammad Reza Bateni, and he would made a appointment to meet each other; I accepted it. It was determined to start the work and update the small Hayyim dictionary. Mr. Haghshenas said that he had two good students whom he would get help from. As I wanted to have a prefect dictionary, I told Mr. Batani to have a final control on the edited dictionary. Someday, Dr. Haghshenas called me and said some words what Mr.Emami had already told me. Mr.Haghshenas said that it was better to publish a new dictionary; so, he stopped to edit Hayyim dictionary. Also, he told me a new dictionary lasted for 3 or 4 years. No agreement was signed for these words. I thought myself that we could update Hayyim dictionary up to now. As Mr. Hayyem made a will for his dictionaries, I tried for them not be forgotten and died. Nowadays, Hayyim dictionaries are publishing in highest standards as I can say definitively that hayyim can be equaled to oxford dictionary.


To be continued…  


[1] Foundation of Oppressed and Disabled

[2] Iranian Currency Unit

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