Memory-Telling of Gholamreza Emami in Sessions 22 and 23 of "Oral History of Book"

Oral History Links Us to the Past

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


Reported by Oral History Website of Iran, 22th meeting of second series of sessions of "Oral History of Book" was held by Nasrollah Haddadi, presenter and expert of the session, and attended by Gholam-Reza Emami, director of Mowj Publication, in Khaneh Ketab Institution's Saraye Ahle Ghalam on Sunday morning of September 17, 2017.


Being familiar with Jalal Al-Ahmad and Mohammad-Taqi Shariati

Gholamreza Emami said: "I was born on August 28, 1946, which was coincidence Eid al-Fitr in Arak. My father is from Arak and we come from Arak. I was three months old when my family went from Arak to other cities because my father was a railway doctor and we went to a new city in every few years. My father could not be compatible with many of injustices and oppressions, so he went to different cities. My mother is Tabatabaei and from Qom. I cannot say where I am from, but I am Iranian. I am from Khoozestan emotionally and intellectually from Khorasan.

I spent my first year at Sani ol-Douleh school in Qom. My first teacher was Dr. Mahmoud Boroujerdi. His kindness and affection made me familiar with education and book. He was friend of my father. My freshman coincided with the year 1953 (1332) and the disgraceful 28 Mordad (19 August) coup d'état. My family was religious and my dad was from devotees of Dr. Mossadegh, and he suffered from a lot of hardships during Nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. Dr. Mossadegh had sent many letters to my father which they still exist. When my father moved from Qom to Mashhad, I went to Taddayon Primary School. Kazem Tadayyon, who was director of the school, was a great man and a manifestation of kindness. I also spent some time of my primary school in Jafari School. We returned to Qom and went to Hakim Nezami School. Before returning to Qom, I had glory of meeting Jalal al-Ahmad. He was like a brother to me. Jalal told me to go to a school where Abolfazl Mosafa (brother of professor Mazaher Mosafa) was there, and I also went to Hakim Nezami School. The director of this school was Mr. Allyasin. I was Fortunate and there were great teachers such as the late Ali Asghar Faghihi, Martyr Mofatteh and Hojatoleslam Tabatabaei.

We were retransferred to Mashhad and I went to Alavi High School. The director of this school was called Mr. Hossein Seyyedi Alavi who was a great man. He was a Seyyed cleric who graduated in BA of French Language. I was there for two years and had professors like Mohammad-Mehdi Rokni, who represents me kindness and affection. Some of my schoolmates were Massoud and Majid Ahmadzadeh (the boys of Taher Ahmadzadeh). Before I went to Alavi High School, I went to Foyouzat School for a few months. Of my schoolmates and neighbors was Amir Parviz Pouyan. In 1962, I published my first book, which was speech of a meeting. Khorasan Printing House published this book. I am intellectually indebted to Mashhad because there I enjoyed sessions of "Center for Publishing Islamic Truths" of Dr. Mohammad-Taqi Shariati, father of Dr. Ali Shariati. If there is a lot of belief in me, one of his reasons is family education and another is nice and enjoyable breath of Master Mohammad-Taqi Shariati. We went from Mashhad to Ahwaz and then to Khorramshahr. Khorramshahr attracted me a lot. Before going to Khorramshahr, I met Jalal al-Ahmad in Tehran. Massoud Ahmadzadeh made me acquaintance with Jalal al-Ahmad. He gave me "Director of School", which I enjoyed from reading it. I know art of Jalal in approaching telling language to writing language. I was proud to host him 10 days in Khorramshahr when he had been fired from Teacher College."

Emami said, "We involve cultural Alzheimer and intellectual discontinuance. We have forgotten many of our women and men who have contributed to foundation of culture, literature, and art of this country."


We queued to buy a book

He added, "We are the generation of great expectations and short walls, not days of tall walls and low expectations. We were a generation who Jalal al-Ahmad was important for us. We were a generation who queued to buy a book in front of bookstores. Our generation has been broken. We have been cut off from our past and should understand cause of this, because otherwise we would not be able to build our future. I see these sessions of oral history of book, which establishes our relationship with the past, as a grateful event."

Emami told, "I met Amir Parviz Pouyan in Mashhad for the first time on a Ramadan night in "Center for Publishing Islamic Truths" under supervision of Professor Mohammad Taqi Shariati. After a short talking with him, I realized that he was very passionate and very interested in Professor Mohammad-Taqi Shari'ati. Massoud Ahmadzadeh, in addition to be my schoolmate in Alavi School, came to the center too. He was very kind. Parviz Khorsand was also with me in Foyouzat School and was a close friend of Dr. Ali Shariati."


Story of acquaintance of Al-Ahmad and Shariati

The author and activist of publication field said: "We came from Khorramshahr to Tehran in 1967. At that time, Professor Mohammad-Taqi Shariati had come to Tehran and his house was behind National Consultative Assembly on Jaleh Street. I went occasionally to visit him because of my interest in that old man. One day I went to visit the professor and realized that he was going to go to railways to accompany his son, who had come from France. I prevented him from going and I myself went to the railroad. I had seen Dr. Ali Shariati twice before going to France, and since that day we became friend. I had a notebook that gave my friends to write for me a note in it. Ali Shariati after seeing note of Jalal al-Ahmad in that note-book, asked me to provide situation to visit Jalal. I told jalal and next day, along with Dr. Shariati, we went to see Jalal. In this meeting, Ali Shariati expressed his efforts in France and his activities in Confederation of Iranian Students in France and they found common familiars. Shari'ati read a poem of Malek o-Sho'arā Bahar, and Jalal said angrily: "Do not tell his name!" I tried to finish the discussion. After that meeting, Dr. Shariati said: "Jalal become greater in my eyes than before. He had a different manifestation from a far distance, but how he was bold and courageous." After the visit, Jalal went to Mashhad and his visits to Ali Shariati became frequent."


Collaboration with Hosseinieh Ershad

Emami added, "I was invited by help of one of my friends to work in cultural sector of Hosseinieh Ershad because of a speech that I had made a few years ago and the book that was come out of it. They wanted to publish a book called "Mohammad (PBUH) The Last Prophet". When my book was published, Dr. Motahari wrote a letter to me and said that my book was interesting to him and congratulated me to that book. There, Mr. Motahari said that he was publishing a book on the occasion of the fifteenth century celebration of Muhammad's first revelation (Be'ethat), and I also contributed as much as I could. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Jafar Shahidi, Ali Shariati, Ayatollah Hashemi, Dr. Bahonar and ... had written some parts of the book under supervision of Dr. Motahari. This book was welcomed."


Activity in Mowj, Pendar and Besat

He told, "At that time, I established publications called "Mowj" and "Pendar" that I would go there in the afternoons. I published contemporary prose works in Mowj Publication and contemporary poetry works in Pendar publication, while I collaborated with Mr. Fakhreddin Hejazi in Besat publication. Of books which we published in Besat Publication were "Social Relations in Islam" by Allameh Tabatabaei that was translated by Mohammad Javad Hojjati in prison, and "The Contribution of Islam to Civilization of the world" by Nasereddin Sahebalzamani, "The Crazy Century" by Ali-Akbar Kasmaie, "The Palestine Outcry" alongside a collection of writings and translations by Seyyed Gholamreza Saeedi, "Quran and Nature" by Abdolkarim Biazar Shirazi, "Islam and Heyat (mourning group)" by Seyyed Hebatoddin Shahrestani, and translated by Seyyed Hadi Khosroshahi, a book on Palestinian literature (in which I added a collection of poems of Iranian poets who had rhymed poetry for Palestine, like poems of Mohammad Ali Sepanlou, M. Azad and Esmail Shahroudi, his book was translated by Alireza Norizadeh), "The Secrets of Backwardness of the East", a series of articles by Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, "The Evil of Riba and Theory of Islam" by Abolfazl Mousavi Zanjani, "The Role of Prophets in Human Civilization" by Fakhreddin Hejazi with an introduction by Engineer Mehdi Bazargan who was welcomed."


A book that won the World Award

At the end of 22th meeting of the second series of sessions of "Oral History of Book", Emami said: "My first book in Mowj Publication was "Poetry of Resistance in Occupied Palestine" by Ghassan Kanfani that had been translated by Sirous Tahbaz. Sirous Tahbaz invited me to work with Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. After some consultation I accepted. Leyli Amir Arjmand managed the center. In December 1971, I started to work as editor in the center. I have published about 10 books there. Quality and modeling of work was very important to us. Sirous Tahbaz and Kamal Kharrazi offered me management of the center Publication. I was in the center until the end of 1359 (SH) and worked hardly. I left there because of intellectual differences. In those years, my book, "There Is No Prayer like Thinking" and the center had published it, took Leipzig World Award."


Disregarding book!

23th session of the second series of sessions of "Oral History of Book" was the second meeting with Gholamreza Emami, Director of Mowj Publication. The meeting was held by Nasrollah Haddadi, author and researcher, in Khaneh Ketab Institution's Saraye Ahle Ghalam on Monday morning in September 17, 2017.

Emami said, "In 1340s (SH) and 1350s (SH), we had a hard-worker country culturally and literarily. People very welcomed book. At that time, population was low, but book circulation reached 20,000 copies, and it became even rare. People were more passionate for reading, knowing and awareness, as in Azar Publication (Morteza Azimi), there was a long queue to buy books. Today, a book is sometimes published in 200 copies. The problem is not financial, but it is people's disregarding for book. However, our publishers are lover that continue the way, and in this desert of unawareness and ignoring book, they will step for wisdom Ka’aba, and the thorns may reproach them, they do not grieve."[1]


A memory of Ayatollah Taleghani

He continued, "In 1967, Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Taleghani and Engineer Mehdi Bazargan were released from prison. I contacted Jalal al-Ahmad and told him this news. Since Jalal did not know home address of the two people, he wanted me to go to their house together. We first went before Mehdi Bazargan. His home was at the beginning of Zafar Street. I introduced Jalal to Mr. Bazargan. He had heard name of Jalal, and they both had a previous and absent regards. Engineer Bazargan thanked Jalal for "Khasi Dar Mighat ", which is travel writing of Jalal's Hajj. In the book Jalal had quoted writings of Mehdi Bazargan in "The House of People". Then we went before Ayatollah Taleghani. His house was in Tonekabon Alley. A group of clerics and non-clerics had come to see him. Jalal was somehow relative of Ayatollah Taleghani. A cleric was there who asked Ayatollah: Who is him? Ayatollah replied that he is Jalal al-Ahmad. The cleric said that Jalal has done the great services to Islam and is one of the great Islamic writers and his book, "Khasi Dar Mighat" is a masterpiece and God has graced him and ... Ayatollah Taleghani said that these slanders do not stigmatize him! As Jalal was having a smoke, Mr. Taleghani also lit a cigarette and had a smoke. While Jalal himself was smoking and was having a smoke there too, out of sympathy for him told Ayatollah, "in this age, having a smoke is not good for you, please care, people need you. Mr. Taleghani replied: "ordinary people and those who wear suit do a lot of sins that we as clerics neglect, so you also close our eyes to my debauchery!"


Summoned by SAVAK

Emami added: "I was not an official member of any group. It was not important for me that someone to be insider or outsider. The person who was human and thought to his people was worthy for me. I remember one day they called me and asked are you Gholam-Reza Emami. I said yes. They gave Security Organization address and told that in day at a special time, I should go there. I shared this with Engineer Bazargan and he said go, if there was a problem they arrested you. I went. There was a typical building that did not have any signboard. When I entered, I said, "Perhaps I'm wrong?" Someone replied: "You're right." I went inside and sat down. In order to frighten me, he didn't tell anything and squinted me, I also looked at him. He had a smoke and I also lit a cigar. He told me smoking is forbidden, and I replied that if it is forbidden, it is forbidden for both of us. After a short time, they took me to upper floor. A plainclothes man waited for me in a large room. As soon as I arrived, he started inquisition. He knew a lot of information about me, and SAVAK officers also had given some information. One of his questions was what why had gone bedside Takhti tomb? I said that all the people went, I went too. He told, "As you don't join the armed groups and don't do armed measures, we will not do anything to you." He also advised me a little and said you are young and enjoy youth.

In my adolescence, I had said in a meeting that Prophets had always fought with poverty, ignorance and oppression; the colonel knew about it too. He said that His Majesty also has this idea; I replied that I did not know his idea and my words were cultural. Our conversation was over and I exited there. Of course, SAVAK had banned me from going to International Film Festival for Children and Youth."

"Since my childhood I believed that if there are boundaries and walls in the world of politics, world of arts, literature and culture doesn't have any boundary," he said in response to the fact that his intellectual orientation was towards the religious groups, however, books of various writers to be seen in his publication. Art, literature and culture pass all boundaries and break time and space. If a flower is beautiful, the right and left groups, religious and non-religious groups consider it as beautiful. I think everyone's opinions are related to himself. For me, what was important was human honor of writers and translators whom I worked with them. This beautiful Zoroastrian sentence was in my mind who says: "I do not throw a sword to destroy darkness, I light up a candle." We need to light up a small candle to eliminate darkness of ignorance and unawareness. Still, I believe that if ignorance to be eliminated, oppression and poverty would also be disappeared. The big circle which I have drawn for awareness consists Mr. Sirous Tahbaz, Dr. Hamid Enayat, Ahmad Shamloo, Simin Daneshvar, Ghazaleh Alizadeh and Mohammad Ghazi. My only goal was not awareness; those people who were well-acceptable and respected by people were also important to me. I thought of character of writers and translators in book publication. A book must have a renowned author, translator or content. Many of people I published their books were renowned people. If a book helped awareness and freedom, I would embrace to publish it."

Gholam-Reza Emami said about " Egypt's Liberation; The Philosophy of The Revolution" by Gamal Abdel Nasser, "During our adolescence and youth, Gamal Abdel Nasser was a popular figure who was interested in Iranian National Movement led by Dr. Mossadegh." Contrary to misconceptions and propaganda, he never used the term Arabic Gulf. He believed in Iranian culture and sheltered many people who had trouble with the Shah regime in Cairo, such as Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi and Dr. Chamran. This book expresses problems of Egypt and cause of its people's revolution. Dr. Mehdi Semasar had translated this book and we published this book after getting his permission. Ardeshir Mohassess did the cover design. Sirous Tahbaz presented Jamal Abdel Nasser book of "Resistance Poetry in Occupied Palestine". There is no doubt that Nasser was pure and termite of corruption that attacks many leaders did not attack him. Ayatollah Taleghani was very fond of Nasser, and hold a ceremony for his death in Hedayat Mosque."


There is no escape from book

He continued: "My first book was in request of Sirous Tahbaz, which was called "Being Child of Your Time", and it was from the words of Imam Ali (AS). Before publishing my books, I had three requests for Sirous: firstly, that my books to be published in the most exquisite way; secondly, even one word to not be typed wrong, come before or after; and finally, Mohammad-Reza Hakimi review my books before publishing. He accepted my requests and published my book. The book publishing was coincided with 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire. That book became very renowned and was printed each time in 10,000 copies. I sent this book to Ayatollah Taleghani, Engineer Bazargan and Dr. Shariati. Khosrow Golshorkhi had seen a copy of this book and wrote a beautiful note in Kayhan newspaper. One day one of my friends said that Khosrow Golshorki wants to see me. At that time, Khosrow was an author of Kayhan newspaper and sometimes wrote a critique in Ayandegah newspaper. We met each other and I told him about my life. He said: "I was born in Rasht, but I grew up in Qom. My grandfather was a relative of Mirza Khuchakhan Jangali, and when my dad died, I came to Qom with my brother and my grandfather paid our expenses." I also had lived in Qom, and these similarities created a passion between me and him. We both knew beliefs of each other and we lived and let live. After a few months Khosrow asked to come to my house. At that time, I had a room on the fourth floor of a building and I was single. I accepted him. On that day, he spoke on armed activities, and I immediately said that "I am not at all interested in armed measures and I did not even spend military service." of course, he didn't also believe armed activities. Khosrow gave me book of "Poetry Policy, Art Politics", which he had written on the cover some affectionate sentences. Consideration and attention that Khosrow made to the book "Being Child of Your Time" led to our acquaintance. Khosrow encouraged me to write Ghassan Kanfani's book. Books that I have published in Mowj Publication are "Interview with History" by Oriana Fallaci, "My Life" by Mohammad-Ali Clay and "The Epic of Palestine" by Alireza Noorizadeh. The books I have published in Pendar Publication are "Alef Laam Mim" by Alireza Noorizadeh and "Tabai al-Istibdad" by Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi. I have also edited a number of books, such as "The Relationship between Science and Religion" br Abbas-Ali Sarafrazi, "Nadir Shah Afshar's Government" by Hamid Momeni, "The Chocolate Trooper" and "The Key to a Happy Living" which I edited as ordered by Simin Daneshvar, "He Is not of Us", which is documented life of a police officer called Ali Dizaei. I believed in the books which I wrote and translated, but I did not believe in all the books which I edited."

Emami added, "Today, if one publishes my books without permission, I would be very upset, as they printed "Forty Parrots" by Jalal Al-Ahmad and "Masculine History" by Reza Baraheni. If I want to present one of my books to someone, I would give my last book titled "Unheard Advices" by Zakaria Tamer."

He stated, "In the past, literacy was not a public matter, and reading and writing was under control of two classes of courtiers and clerics. Few ordinary people could read and write. Our culture is oral culture, therefore, we do not have written works of much of our history, culture and our past, that it has a historical root and have some reasons including the fact that in the past book has been holy for us and as every holy matter is far and intangible, we supposed that everything that was written in books were true. We have two ways to learn about our past history and culture, one to use metaphors of some of free poets, and [secondly] the most important source is travel writing of foreign travel writers who had traveled here."

Emami continued: "The first word that was sent to our Prophet was اِقراء (read), but Islamic community is alien to reading. When a book answers a need it is created. In the past, getting a book in hand was a kind of snobbishness, but today driving a highrider car. Today, because there is no need to read a book, certainly this situation of book will continue. "It's not an escape from book," Umberto Eco said. When radio was invented, some said book's life was over. When TV came, it was said life of radio and book was ended. When satellite came, they argued that life of radio, television, and book was over. Now that the internet has emerged, they say ... If we get children acquaintance to book and reconcile them with it, we will see that book reading will extend."

He said about Berne Convention, "We are not a member of this convention, but it's much better if we become a member. Publishers can easily get copyright, but they do not."

In the end, in response to the question that if he returns he would follow the 71 years path, he stated, "Maybe I would not do some things, but I'm happy. I was very fortunate that was associated with the great people who influenced their days, including Mohammad-Taqi Shariati, Dr. Ali Shariati, Jalal Al-Ahmad, Khosrow Golsokhi, Ayatollah Taleghani and Mehdi Bazargan. Emotionally I was influenced most of all by Jalal Al-Ahmad and intellectually by Ayatollah Taleghani. If I want to imagine a triangle of the three who influenced me, at the head of this triangle was Ayatollah Taleghani, another vertex would be Jalal Al-Ahmad, and the other vertex Engineer Bazargan."

The new session of "Oral History of Book" has been held in Khaneh Ketab Institution's Saraye Ahle Ghalam respectively: The first meeting on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 attended by Haj Beitollah Radkhah (Mashmachi), Director of Tehran-Tabriz Publication, the second meeting on Wednesday, April 19 attended by Jamshid Esmaeilian, Director of Partov Publication, the third meeting on Wednesday, April 26 with presence of Abolqasem Ashraf Ol-Ketabi, Director of Ashrafi Publication, the fourth meeting on Wednesday, May 17, attended by Hojatoleslam Buyuk Chitchian, Director of Mortazavi Publication, the fifth session on Tuesday, May 23 attended by Seyyed Jalal Ketabchi, Director of Eslamieh Publication, and Seyyed Farid Ketabchi and Seyyed Mohammad Baqer Ketabchi, directors of Elmieh Eslamieh Publication, the sixth Meeting on Tuesday, May 30, re-attended by Seyyed Jalal Ketabchi, director of Eslamieh Publication, Seyyed Mojtaba Ketabchi, Seyyed Farid Ketabchi and Seyyed Mohammad Baqer Ketabchi, Managers of Elmieh Eslamieh Publication, the seventh one on Tuesday, June 06, attended by Morteza Akhundi, director of Darolkotob Al-Eslamieh Publication, the eighth meeting on Tuesday, June 13, re-attended by Morteza Akhundi, director of Darolkotob Al-Eslamieh Publication, the ninth session on Tuesday, June 20, attended by Mahdieh Mostaghni Yazdi, concessionaire of Karnameh Publication, Makan and Roozbeh Zahraee, offspring of late Mohammad Zahraee, the dead director of Karnmeh Publication, the tenth session on Wednesday, June 28, re-attended by Mahdieh Mostaghni Yazdi, concessionaire of Karnameh Publication, and Roozbeh Zahraee, offspring of late Mohammad Zahraee, the dead director of Karnameh Publication, the eleventh one on Tuesday, July 11, attended by Mohammadreza Najian Asl, director of Rasa Publication, the twelfth session on Sunday, July 16, attended by Mohammad-Reza Jafari, director of Nashrenow Publication, the thirteenth session on Tuesday, July 18, re-attended by Mohammad-Reza Najian Asl, Director of Rasa Publication, the fourteenth session on Tuesday, July 25, re-attended by Mohammad-Reza jafari, Director of Nashrenow Publication, the fifteenth session on Saturday, July 29, attended by Mohammad Nikdast, Director of Payam Publication, the sixteenth meeting on Tuesday, August 08, attended by Saeed Eqbal Ketabchi, Director of Eqbal Publication, the seventeenth one on Saturday, August 12, re-attended by Saeed Eqbal Ketabchi, Director of Eqbal Publication, the eighteenth meeting on Tuesday, August 15, attended by Davood Mosayee, Director of Farhang-e Moaser Publication, the nineteenth session on Tuesday, August 22, with presence of Mehrdad Kazemzadeh, Director of Maziar Publication, the twentieth session on Monday, August 28, attended by Ali Zavvar, Director of Zavvar Publication, the twenty first meeting on Tuesday, September 12, re-attended by Davood Mosayee, Director of Farhang-e Moaser Publication.

As well as, the first session of series of "Oral History of Book" was held from second half of 1393 (SH) to summer of 1394 (SH) by Nasrollah Haddadi in Khaneh Ketab's Saraye Ahle Ghlalam. The results of these meetings were published in a book titled "Oral History of Book" in 560 pages by Khaneh Ketab Institution.


[1] It refers to the couplet of Hafiz: "As you step through the desert longing for the Ka’aba/ The thorns may reproach you, do not grieve".

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