I Experienced the World with Kanoon Books

She wrote for us: I am the youngest girl of the family. At that time, all my sisters were Kanoon members and they were really active. One of them had shined in calligraphy, the other in theater and the other one in declaiming poetry.

When I became a member of Kanoon I was a Jack of all trades. After me, my younger brothers joined Kanoon. Each of them experienced some artistic and literary activities. But, we all had something in common, all of us used to read Kanoon books; we all had something in common reading Kanoon books and getting fed by those books. There always were many Kanoon books in our home. Every one of us used to borrow two books so in all there were ten to twelve books in our home. We read each other’s books and talked about them during the borrowing period.

I was born in 1992 in Qom. I have recently completed MA in directing animations at Cinema-Theater Faculty. I got BA in industrial designing at College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran.  Currently, my most important activity is making experimental films and animations and discovering the ways of expressing in this profession. 

And, it was after these words that our conversation with Mahboubeh Kalaei took shape and now it is in front of you.

 Interview by Mohammad Hossein Dizaji

Your elder sisters paved your path to Kanoon library. How many sisters and brothers do you have? With which Kanoon library did you start in Qom and what are you doing at present?

I was brought up in a large family. I have four sisters and four brothers. I was a Kanoon member at Center Number 2; one of the oldest Kanoon centers in downtown neighborhood and close to our home.

Apart from my cooperation with Kanoon when I was a primary and a university student, my most important activity was concentrating on personal projects like designing and writing handmade books, and works that were mostly formic to combine the collection of my interests like authoring, illustrating and designing. During studying Mater’s, I came to know animation and found out that it is a suitable medium to concentrate on the areas of my interest.

How many times a week did you go to the library and which activities did you do there?

When I was at primary school, any time I was at Kanoon; I can say that I spent more time at Kanoon than school. I kept frequenting to Kanoon regularly until preschool. But, after I got admitted to the university and living at Tehran University Hostel, I came less to Qom. Yet, I preserved my ties with Kanoon.

That’s why, when I came back to Qom in summer, I was working as painting and photography trainer at certain Kanoon centers. When I was a member, I used to participate in all artistic and literary activities with enthusiasm. The literary workshop was the most miraculous. I loved to write seriously. At that time, when I saw books in all shelves, I wished to write a book later. My dream was being an author. That is why I was very much interested in the literature workshop by my dear trainer, Mrs. Eisaabadi. I was always clinging at her asking questions.  We did a variety of activities from storytelling, making maquettes, pottery, calligraphy, strange and creative handicraft which were fun to me to reading books, songs and theater.  

I had a hand in all of them. Like I said, I was a jack of all trades. It was difficult for me to leave one for the sake of the other one. Choosing one out of all those exciting areas was impossible for me. I was willing to experience all fields endlessly.

Everyone may be interested in certain points of a book. For instance, one likes the story itself, one enjoys the illustrations. How did you view the illustrations?

To me, a book was not a collection of illustrations or a piece of writing; it was a media to me. A construction whose components make sense in relation to each other. That is why I always paid attention to the relation between the illustrations and the text, where they were located, the written form of the text. It is as if you are reading the empty space of the book, too. I mean the parts that are neither written, nor illustrated. That is what distinguishes an excellent book from an ordinary one. The spirit of the book or the degree of thinking used to produce all the elements of the book. Books were and are beautiful means of expression for me.  

 Would you please name the books you liked at that time?

I used to follow “A Collection of Poetry and Contemporary Iranian Tales”, and “Literature of Other Nations”. Literature is always fresh and attractive to me. At that time, I liked Silverstien’s works; also books by Shahran Shafiee, Fariba Kalhor and Farhad Hassanzadeh.

In addition to that, I had a nice relation with the eight year-old Ramona book. I identified myself with Ramona. There were so many books I used to live with. The nice collection of Naser Keshavarz poetry, Salman Herati, Jafar Ebrahimi, Asadollah Shabani and many other good poets.

Usually after reading poetry collections, I could remember some couplets; I used them subconsciously in everyday dialogs in harmony with the topic. I liked using the poetry very much and I still do. The subconscious use of what you have read in daily life. 

Some people remain in our minds because of their ethics, behavior, outlooks or other characteristics. Which coach remained in your mind?

 At that time, many coaches were moved from one center to another. Yet, Ms. Bayati was a coach that we spent a long time with. She was constantly present at the center. The intimacy between us filled the gaps we had in the family. The compassion and kindness she showed us was unparalleled.

I wish her health and happiness. I miss the days when I was an adolescent. Also, Mr. Nezaari. Whenever I see him, I learn something wonderful from him that keeps me busy till the end of the week. Of course, he is really lavish in giving books as gifts. He introduces the best books. He is like a moving treasure. I wish him a nice and healthy life.

What were the effects of Kanoon on your life and your future? For example in choosing friends or field of study and the like?

I dare say if there was no Kanoon center close to our house, god knows what I was doing. (I say close because if it were far I did not have the chance to spend most of my childhood and adolescence at Kanoon.) Without that experience, I may be a person who thinks about her interests and captured in repetitive everyday life. I am grateful to god for having the chance; also, I am thankful to all Kanoon centers that prioritize children’s lives and dreams.

Kanoon has produced many films. Which film was more interesting and attractive?

Not many films were shown at our center. Our relationship with films was not the way it should be, I wonder why it was not. There was a color TV at our center but it was not used for watching films. Theater and other activities had hotter atmosphere. Later since I found the path of my life, I came to know Nourredin Zarrinkelk, and Abbas Kiarostami. Their works exactly reflected the same creative invisible atmosphere we had lived in Kanoon.

This is a fact that Kanoon works produced through various kinds of medium either books, or films or other activities were of different nature and different from productions by other organizations. They have their own aesthetic standards in form and content and it is because of those artistic and literary figures working at Kanoon over every period.

Lets end this interview by a nice memory from Kanoon.

At that time, I used to make handmade books because I was crazy for books. One day, Hamid Gerogan, Kanoon nice author and researcher, had travelled to Tehran with some one else. May be to visit Kanoon centers. It was noon and Kanoon was deserted. I who was like Kanoon’s dove, used to stay at the library or was busy making something or looking for a book to quench my thirst for reading.

That day, I was having some copies of my hand made books with me. Mr. Grogan made a favor to me and bought all my books for six thousands Tomans! It was a lot of money! I could equip all my book making system. My hand made books was like this: first, I cut papers in various size. Then, I wrote a story off the cuff. Then, I made some illustrations. I made a cover, and then I bound the book. On the back of the cover, I drew ISBN with the help of a ruler, on the identification page of the book, in front of the price, I wrote: “Whatever amount your pocket lets you.” What I made was a good replica of book.

After it was completed, I went through the pages. I got excited when I witnessed my endeavors are materialized. I really like to see Mr. Gerogan one more time. I wish him a good and healthy life for him. I remember that day I read out one of my stories to him, as a matter of fact he asked me to read one of my writings. Then, we talked about it. I always remember what he said.

He asked me if read “Hafez”. He said, “Make sure to read Hafez, even if you do not understand it. Words do they must do.” I did what he said; the older I got, the more I discovered the words do what they must do.


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