For the second time in slightly over ten years, we sat down to choose a name for a publishing company. The first time round, I was learning to play the sitar (very badly- my tutor said I was “very arrogant” for attempting to play), and I made a list of names inspired by traditional Persian music. I can’t remember all of them, but I remember that fancy-sounding old Farsi names such as Mehraneh, Mahan, Charkh-o-Falak featured on the list. None of them was chosen; the hardbitten fanatically religious ex-combatant who actually managed to get the publishing permit from the Ministry of Guidance for us solemnly told us that he had “pulled the name out of the Quran” and Hafiz (one of the names of God) Publishing was thus established.
Who are we to complain? Hafiz did -and does- very well, and continues to subsidize us on this long expensive expensive sojourn in Halifax-on-the-Ocean. Thank you, God, and thank you, all you authors who wrote good-selling books for Hafiz, continuing to put lobsters and bread on our Haligonian sofreh.
Nowadays, getting a publishing permit from the Ministry of Guidance in Iran takes years and years on a waiting list, clearance from the Ministry of Information, succeeding in an exam about publishing industry and jumping through various other bureaucratic hoops. Last year, I saw a figure of something like over three thousands persons on the publishing-permit waiting list.
In Halifax, getting a publishing permit took about five business days. Pay the fees, and you don’t even have to show an ID card to the bland blond government clerks who briskly count the dollars and tap the registration into their keyboards. During a fever of nationalist Canadian sentiment while marvelling at the administrative ease of registering the publishing company, we opted for a truly Canadian name: Red Leaf Press.
As all Canadians -immigrants and otherwise- know, the dollar in Canada is planted well beneath an elephant`s foot, and to get that dollar, you have to raise the elephant with your bare hands. But perhaps the same benevolent spirits which breathed life into Hafiz and made it a success will waft through her Haligonian sister Red Leaf, and infuse her too with some of that money-sparkle. Congratulations, Red Leaf, on your birth. May you be as lively and prosperous as your dark-eyed sister, and may you too have your fair share of good manuscripts scattered in your path.