As I entered the main offices of Librairies Antoine in Sin el Fil, I felt the chills, just imagining how the founder, Mr. Antoine Nawfal, had to truly be persistent in order to have this book empire running as it is running today.
Librairies Antoine, now employing families throughout Lebanon, with more than 15 branches around the Phoenician Soil is a true heritage. Lebanon is a country in which education plays an extremely important role. Most of the population speaks English, French and Arabic, and the international exposure is dramatic: there are 15 million lebanese living outside of Lebanon, with only 4 million living in Lebanon. They leave to whatever global destination to open new businesses…and are very successful at what they do. This means that there is an important flow of culture and economics between Lebanon and the rest of the world, and viceversa.
Mr. Sami Naufal is a man who loves life. As I entered his spacious office I could see the trees outside his huge window peep in. I felt the harmony between them and Sami, who is truly a man of Nature. After having been asked what I would like to drink, typical Lebanese Hospitality, I sat down on a comfortable leather chair in front of his impressingly organised desk. Happiness was in the air, but none the less I shot:
“Mr. Naufal, are you happy?”
He looked at me as if wanting to know why would I ask something so obvious.
“Yes!”, he replied, his whole cells answering even before he spoke.
“What is happiness for you?”, I continued, as his eyes sparkled and a sincere smile showed his charming ways.
Knowing that he spoke spanish from a prior phone conversation, we continued in that language, which made the mood of the room even more gay.
“To be aligned with Nature; to be at peace with one self,” he said.
At that moment the phone rang; it was ‘the Ministry of Interior’, his Wife.
What a wonderful way to value family!
We resumed our conversation in Spanish. Mr. Naufal studied the language of Cervantes in the Instituto Cervantes in Beirut. It was very soothing to communicate with him in my mother tongue. I visualised a nice Mexican meal at Villas Xichu some day in the near future, with both our families joining in the flow of life…
Touched in this very warm moment, I asked him about his father, and what his relation was with him.
“He’s always with me”, he said, as he proudly held a photo of smiling Mr. Pierre, may he feast in joy.
I took the picture with both my hands as I literally felt this persistent man’s joy. Mr. Pierre’s happy air while probably enjoying dessert after a good meal said so much; I almost heard him say: “When you are passionately in love with what you do, what you call success comes with an effortless effort.”
Sami then “joined” my thoughts by adding: “My father was an amazing man, always cheerful and positive”. He told me how Mr. Antoine Naufal, brother of his father, along with the third brother Emile, had founded Librairie Antoine. Persistence had been the name of the game at all times, wanting to make a difference in their community, allowing for freedom of thought to be spread throughout the then French occupied country. Books in English, French and Arabic are now to be found in all the branches of this now very well established chain of bookstores.
“What is the secret of your success?”, I asked then, to what he answered with absolutely no hesitance: “Persistence, honesty, seriousness, perseverance.”
We had continued to speak in Spanish, sometimes feeling that he wanted to find more words to explain himself, but truly it wasn’t necessary because all his being was letting me know that obvious answer. The answer had come even before he spoke. From the moment you walk into his office you can sense the Truth continuing from his ancestors.
Now feeling more and more connected, I felt the presence of my very cheerful Mother, may she also be feasting in joy…
“Sami, I feel the presence of my Mother as well. May I read you a passage of the book that wrote me that speaks about her?”
-“Sure, by all means,” he said, as I read the encounter entitled “When Mami Left her Body”.
More and more I could feel the authenticity in this man’s being, his true desire to serve his community, as his ancestors had done, and his descendants are doing.
His daughter lives in Switzerland, and is active in the publisher world. As for his son, he lives in the USA and takes care as well of Librairie Antoine affairs from there.
We spoke about the signing of Spiritual Orgasms, vivid encounters in the Now, which had taken place in the luxurious and extremely spacious multi floored branch in the middle of the elegant Down Town quarter of the “Old Souq”. During that early December 2012 day, I was surprised to realise that many people didn’t know about the existence of this impressing branch. As well, a couple of his key staff hadn’t read the book written by his niece Nada Anid, daughter of Mr. Antoine Naufal, The very full moments of Antoine Naufal published in french, making me feel that pumping a bit of enthusiasm into his team would be of great motivation.
So I simply asked him: “How often do you pump happiness into your business?” He paused for a minute, and answered in English: NOT ENOUGH….
I was so pleased to see in him the intense desire to enthusiastically add salt and pepper to the mix. No wonder Librairie Antoine is Librairie Antoine!
After arranging for a workshop for MY ANTOINE FAMILY staff, as I feel this is my family (hosting my first book ever), I left while simply saying: “Hasta Siempre!”