The Book of Birjand: Birjand at the Beginning of the Fourteenth Century of the Persian Calendar
رضايى، جمال. بیرجندنامه: بیرجند در آغاز سده ی چهاردهم خورشیدی. به اهتمام محمود رفيعى. ‏تهران: هیرمند، ١٣٨١، ۴۲۴ص

Rizayi, Jamal. Birjandnamah: Birjand dar Aghaz-i Sadah-yi Chahardahum-i Khurshidi. Mahmud Rafiʻi (ed.). Tehran: Hirmand, 2003, 424pp.


The Book of Birjand: Birjand at the Beginning of the Fourteenth Century of the Persian Calendar

بیرجندنامه: بیرجند در آغاز سده ی چهاردهم خورشیدی

This book is an account of the city of Birjand and aims to introduce the Birjand of yesterday to contemporaries. Jamal Rizayi initially wanted to write a book about the “popular culture of Birjand”, but he became aware of the dramatic changes that had occurred in his native city in the course of the last several decades. These changes appeared so drastic to the author that, fearing the past would be forgotten, he changed his research process to write about the Birjand that he knew, not the Birjand that exists. The book is a monograph that includes diverse discussions such as those pertaining to the city’s architecture, the type of livelihood, clothing and dress, customs, language, games, and beliefs of the people, all of which are considered in detail and distinguished from one another.

In the area of architecture, most of the emphasis is on the social function of the buildings rather than their structure. Investigations completed about Birjand’s old system of irrigation and water supply are among the work’s other valuable aspects. But perhaps the book’s most dynamic and attractive chapters are the two that consider the popular beliefs and ideals of the people of Birjand. These two chapters could have been the prelude to the book that Jamal Rizayi never had the chance to write (he passed away about a year before the book was published).

The Book of Birjand is a special compilation of what the author knew, experienced, and read about the city in the early years of the Pahlavi Dynasty. A great span of seventy to eighty years separates the period covered by the writer and the time in which he writes. This may be the biggest source of error in the book, since many of its sources might not have been firsthand and reliable. 

The author’s interests as a linguist are evident throughout the book, in the transcription of phrases, poems, and local names. Two of the three appendices are also devoted to investigating Birjand’s local dialects. The third appendix is made up of photographs of the old city.

Ultimately, the book is written in a simple language and is academic in orientation. The information gathered in this work is largely descriptive and one rarely finds personal views. The main audiences for this book are anthropologists, linguists, and those with an interest in the culture of Khurasan.

Iradj Esmailpour Ghouchani
Translated by Niki Akhavan
Ghouchani, Iradj Esmailpour. '"English abstract of 'The Book of Birjand: Birjand at the Beginning of the Fourteenth Century of the Persian Calendar'". Translated by Niki Akhavan. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi, 29. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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