Westwood’s Iranian bookstore Ketab Corp. closed its doors last week after 36 years in business.
The shop on Westwood Boulevard held roughly 85% Persian titles as well as books in English about Iran, said owner Bijan Khalili, who in a phone call described his customer base as “Persians and those Americans that are interested in Persian culture” in a phone call.
Ketab Corp. proudly stocked censored titles on a shelf marked “books prohibited in Iran,” such as those by celebrated Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad.
“Reading books is a human right,” Khalili told Public Radio International in an August interview.
Khalili opened Ketab Corp. in January 1981, just 40 days after immigrating to the U.S. In a 2015 interview with The Times, Khalili revealed that he had been imprisoned in Iran in 1980 following the revolution.
“I was kept there for 11 days, and that’s enough time for anyone to reconsider a few things in life,” he told The Times. When Khalili fled to the U.S. less than a year later, he took 10 of his favorite books with him.
“One of them was ‘Les Misérables’ by Victor Hugo,” he said. “I had it from my childhood.”
As for why the store is closing, Khalili said “the new generation does not speak Farsi, does not read Farsi,” he explained, and went on to break it down in no uncertain terms.
“Very simple,” he said. “I rent. No parking. Amazon.”
Ketab Corp. will continue selling books online via its website, which is in both English and Farsi.