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Books are for keeping
Each one of my books represents my way of thinking or even my way of life



Shahireh Sharif
June 12, 2007

After what seemed liked hours, the lift stopped with a jerk on the 4th floor. I jumped out of the lift the moment that the space between the doors was big enough for my head to go through. I admit my behaviour characterized the action of an insane or at least a claustrophobic person, if not someone on the run. Luckily, there was nobody in the lift or in the corridor outside; phew! My integrity was not affected.

As the lift door closed after me I noticed my mistake, the “Near Eastern” collection of the library was partly moved to the 5th floor. I should have taken the lift all the way to the next floor and then worked my way down to this level, using the staircase. This way I would have avoided climbing up the stairs; taking the lift just to go up one level would have not been worth it. Not that I was particularly tired, but somehow I associated taking the staircase with being short-changed. Or maybe it was the free gift of going up the staircase (i.e. all the huffing and puffing) that I was trying to avoid!

I decided not to be too selective today and simply pick any book off the shelf as an alternative to choosing it based on my favourite author or title, just in case it turned out to be on the fifth floor! You see, I would not be defeated that easily, not even by gravity!

In the main area of the 4th floor, back to back rows of high wooden shelves were crammed with books. The atmosphere was filled with the distinct smell of books. I walked towards the Persian language collection. The library seemed empty and peaceful as it was just after the exam period. As I was passing the isles I thought to myself no wonder that in a lot of stories the gateways to other worlds are connected to a library. This place was too calm to be on this planet!

The University of Manchester has a fantastic Persian collection that includes some real treasures. Sadly some of these can not be even found in Iran anymore. If only we could learn a thing or two about tolerance from these books. I am not taking about their contents, but simply about the way that they are arranged so peacefully next to each other on the shelves. I am sure some of their authors won’t even be able to be in the same room as one another. Gathering authors based on the library codes given to their books seemed like a funny thought. This might even be a good idea for reality TV. I imagined two of these authors together and could hardly stop myself laughing thinking about it. It was so hilarious that I nearly choked on the chocolate that I smuggled into the library and mischievously had a bite of it a second earlier.

After a while of searching the shelves an old book attracted my attention. It was a translation of Jami’s Yusef & Zulaikha to a language which seemed German. It had the original Persian text included of course. This book was donated to the library in 1884, but had never been taken out of the library before. In fact it was not even on the electronic referencing system. It had to be put on the system at the point of being borrowed. Fantastic! This is my discovery now. In fact it is more than a discovery; as far as I am concerned, I have given it the kiss of life! Jami you owe me one!!! I am glad that there are people who tend to collect books and hang on to them even if nobody seems to want to read them at the time. Thanks to them I now get to read this copy more than a century after it being added to the library’s collection. 

I own a small collection of books myself; however, unlike Jahanshah Javid, I would not give them away just because I don’t get to read them anymore. Lending these to others is not a problem, but I rather the ownership stay with me. Each one of my books represents my way of thinking or even my way of life at a certain point in time. They are a trace of a voyage from past to the present and as such they make up a three-dimensional history of me. I intend to hang on to my books. Well, until the day that fate forces me to surrender these together with the rest of my possessions. Comment

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Shahireh Sharif


My Uncle Napoleon
By Iraj Pezeshkzad,
Translated by Dick Davis


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