Libraries with their owners have stories and situations, as well as anecdotes and sorrows that deserve to be told. “Al-Riyadh” visits the libraries of a group of intellectuals, evokes the memory of beginnings, and follows the passion for collecting the most valuable possessions, and the stages of building libraries.. In this written dialogue we host Dr. Muhammad Al-Hajri, Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at Jubail University College, whose library contains books of history, beliefs and myths, as well as books of criticism, literature and Arabic sciences. Religious sciences, dictionaries and dictionaries, as well as books on management, education, and the performing arts.
At what stage did you learn about the book?
It seems that growing up under the shadow of grandmothers’ tales, and the shoes of fathers, subconsciously stimulated me to love reading, and to be attached to the book from the beginning. I got acquainted with the book from an early age, as I was in the elementary school at that time, and the beginning was with the children’s stories in the school library, and I borrowed a story every day to read, until I came across all the stories in the library, as they were small and the number of stories and books in them It was very limited, and I used to re-read the same stories to satisfy my desire to read and because others were not actually available. I was living in a small desert village far from the city, so I would hoard some money from the school space to buy stories and magazines when we went into town, and it happened maybe every month or two.
One day – and I had grown up a little – I was visiting one of my relatives, when my eyes fell on the first novel that my hands had written, it was the novel “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe, and I read it with eagerness and love, and it was exciting and enjoyable, but the last part of it was – Unfortunately – missing a cut, the fun and linking the events did not complete until after not a few years, I searched for it when I came to the city of Riyadh, and it seems that this incident is what increased my attachment and my passion for the book, and the foundation for the love of stories and novels.
Do you remember the beginnings of establishing your home library?
I began collecting books and taking care of their acquisition, starting from the high school years, but – in any case – a humble beginning, which relied on gifts and acquisitions from the authorities that distribute books for free, and the library expanded after joining the university level. Acquisition also increased, and knowledge sources increased, and books could be borrowed from the university library, photocopied and preserved.
What about book fairs, and their role in enriching your library?
Book fairs inside and outside the Kingdom played an active role in enriching my library with many sources and references, especially with the low level of commercial libraries, and the lack of them providing many books that fall into my interest. I visited book fairs in Cairo, Casablanca, Damascus, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Muscat, and certainly the book fair The International Fair in Riyadh is one of the important exhibitions that I am keen to visit annually, and I would like to thank through you the Ministry of Culture for the qualitative shift it has made in the form and content of the Riyadh Book Fair, and for its interest and care for writers and intellectuals, and we expect more from it.
What are the most prominent turning points that accompanied the growth of your library?
There were three notable turning points that contributed to changing the shape of my library and enriching it. The first: my move to Riyadh at the beginning of my secondary studies, which helped broaden my horizons and brought me closer to sources of knowledge. The second of these turns is enrolling in university studies; If this helped me to start intellectually, financial independence, and closeness to the sources of science and culture, who are my teachers who were my students, as they gave me some books.
As for the most prominent turning point that contributed a lot to the richness of my library, it was my enrollment in a postgraduate program to study a master’s and doctorate; By virtue of the research nature of the study, it was necessary for me to work on providing many sources and references to enrich my research, and through them I set out to collect many books that were under my hands.
Tell us about the first books that entered your library?
Perhaps one of the first books I owned was the novel “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe, and he wrote: “Kalila and Dimna,” “One Thousand and One Nights,” “The Misers” by Al-Jahiz, “The History of Najd Modern” by Amin Al-Rihani, and “The Title of Glory in History” Najd” by Ibn Bishr, “Morouj al-Dhahab” by Al-Masudi, “The Unique Contract” by Ibn Abd Rabbo, and “Uyun al-Akhbar” by Ibn Qutayba.
Do you keep manuscripts in your library?
I have a firm conviction that manuscripts are not located in private libraries, but should be in specialized research centers and university libraries, because the value of manuscripts appears when they are studied and verified, and this can only be achieved through universities and research centers, and perhaps it is sad that many of our manuscript treasures are buried It is between the walls of private libraries, and it may be exposed to a lot of damage, because it needs special care, and this is considered an injustice to our history and heritage.
What about the share of old and rare books?
In my opinion, such books are treasures that should not be kept in private libraries, but rather should be available in university libraries or research centers, or in places through which these treasures can be accessed; Therefore, I was not keen on acquiring it. Rather, I would advise anyone who has something like it to gift it to university libraries.
Do you have books signed by their authors in your library?
I am fortunate to have had a good number of books signed by their owners, and donated to me, and this is an honor that I will always cherish, and I thank everyone who gifted me one of his works, because books have the status of a child.
What are the funniest addresses in your office?
It may be funny or strange, but what always matters is the content behind the title; Titles are thresholds for texts. Among those titles: “The Message of Al-Sahel and Al-Shahij” by Abu Al-Ala Al-Maarri, “The Spur” by Jacques Derrida, “Nahilistic Nihilism” by Sami Adham, “Al-Hawamil and Al-Shamal” by Abu Hayyan Al-Tawhidi, “The Ishtar Puzzle” by Firas Al-Sawah, and “The Philosophy of Hatred.” by Rashid Al-Mubarak, “Narrative Reproduction” by Saeed Jabbar, “Tamuz” by Antoine Murkat, and many others.
Is the novelty of the book or the novelty of its subject among the criteria for its selection?
In my opinion, the choice of the book stems from the subject it deals with, and the extent of the need for it; Either for a research study that he completed, or to increase the balance of knowledge on a topic.
What was the funniest thing that happened to you while searching for books?
I remember in this regard a situation that happened to me with my wife and children; We went shopping in a city other than ours, and after we finished shopping, I wanted to visit one of the commercial libraries that cares about sober books, so I left them in the car, and asked them to leave for half an hour, and deposited my mobile phone in the car for charging, and it seems that my preoccupation with books made me lose the sense of time, so I did not know Except when my wife was standing in front of me, while I was turning the books over, I was terrified because I thought something bad had happened to them, and if she informed me that I had three hours in the library.
What are the most popular books that you like to read?
I am interested in reading human creativity in general, literary books, critical studies, biographies, trips, history, myths, and civilizations.
Are there any of your reading books that still stick in your mind?
The previous readings come to mind in different forms; Either it is presented in the form of pieces, phrases, or prominent images, or it is brought in the form of a mixed creativity of various stripes that produces a new text that carries a unique meaning. Perhaps the beginnings of the present are always written in the mind, and if we count them, we will not be finished.
How many books have you written so far, and when was your first book published and what was it?
I have two books so far, and I am now working on the third, God willing. My first book, Narration and Popular Tradition, was published in 1431 AH, and there is no doubt that practical preoccupations played a role in distracting me from writing.
Does your family benefit from your library in preparing their research?
I always encourage my family members to make use of the library; Either in completing their homework, or out of culture and interest. I encouraged my sons to put desks for them inside my library, to encourage them to read, and to accustom them to living among books.
What do you prefer a paper or digital library, and why?
I do not prefer one over the other, even if I am familiar with the paper book, but with the development taking place now in the digital world, the digital book is the future, and perhaps the next generation will spare our suffering that we lived in in the beginnings to get the book; Mothers of Books, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, you can now get them through digital media. Which is not possible by paper methods.
What do you think of reading?
Reading is an open sky, it brings you closer to the world, and gives you the sciences, experiences, and knowledge of the first and the last. Reading is a noble act that God Almighty established by saying (Read). Reading is a solid foundation for every civilization.
What is your message to everyone who owns his own library?
I say to him: May God bless your effort and work, and I advise him to make it available to whoever wants to benefit from it if he is able, and to donate it to scientific research bodies, whenever he finds himself unable to benefit from it.
I thank “Al-Riyadh” newspaper for its interest in libraries and books, and its support for culture and literature, and I thank A. Bakr Hazal for his tireless work in the service of culture and intellectuals, and for his wonderful effort to highlight private libraries.