In Iraq, booksellers leave the books at the side of the road overnight, thinking: “Readers don’t steal, and thieves don’t read.”
That reminds me of an episode during my first visit to Iran.
In a used-book shop, I found so many interesting books in English and German that the owner carefully asked me after a while if I needed more time. “Why?” I was wondering. “Oh, it’s just that I would like to go to lunch soon,” he explained. No problem. I would come back in an hour, I said. “No, no, you don’t have to leave,” he replied. “If you can still spend half an hour here, I will quickly go to lunch and you can stay here in the meantime.” So he left his store to a complete stranger.
At the book markets near the University of Tehran, I learned that the most interesting and the most foreign-language books can be found in the most hidden shops. After entering a run-down building, going to the second courtyard, walking up to the fourth floor and then crossing through some other shops until you reach the last room, you find the place where the literature from the time before the Islamic Revolution in 1979 is being kept.
In a shop for law books, I met an Iranian lawyer who asked me where I was from. “From Germany.” “Oh, Germany! I love three things about Germany: Andreas Brehme, the Frankfurter Schule and Hugo Grotius.“ Andreas Brehme had already retired by that time and Hugo Grotius was actually Dutch, but still, I found it an impressive line-up. Usually, people only think of Hitler and Mercedes-Benz when I disclose my country of origin.