Memoirs from infancy; is it possible?

A note from “Eighty Years of Effort”

Jafar Golshan Roghani
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


Dr. Ahmad Azimi Bolourian was born in the city of Mashhad in 1935. He was released his memoirs in a book titled “Eighty Years of Effort: Step by Step Along with Iran’s Social and Political Transformations since the Second Decade of 1300”. It was released in 2017 by the Publications of Rasa Cultural Services Institute. He has got the PhD degree in Civil and Urban Engineering from Washington University and has been a lecturer for years both in the US and Iran. Dr. Bolourian has translated and published many works in field his specialized knowledge.  His memories have been provided in ten chapters and 300 pages. He begins by recounting the situation of his grandfather, grandmother and father and in continuation, narrates his memoirs from birth to the present time. In his book’s preface, he writes, "In this book, the author has tried to portray the transformation of Iranian society in the simplest and clearest possible way since his childhood in Mashhad until the age over 80 years old. This book is not the writing of history, but a humorous expression of the objective facts and transformations that he has seen and touched in the winding path of his life.” 

But the considerable point in expressing the memories of Dr. Azimi is that in many cases he expresses events with special details and descriptions in the form of a simple and eloquent prose. For example, in the second chapter, which describes the events of his life as a child, he mentions strange memories of his infancy and that of his older brother, which is very strange and surprising. He writes, “I remember my childhood events from infancy. We lived in a room in the home of the second wife of my grandfather in Bagh-e Naderi Alley in northwestern part of the current Ferdowsi Tomb. I was the third child of the family and was born as “Shirzad”. It is a Khorasani word and refers to a baby who has an infant brother or sister at birth. I have not yet forgotten the angry looks of my brother who was watching my breastfeeding from my mother.

Before breastfeeding, my mother would milk in a glass from time to time and give it to my brother with a sugar cube so that he would not cry when he saw me breastfed. I remember one day my mother had sat on a chair in the yard at sunset, and my mother was breastfeeding me while hugging me. He gave my brother a glass of milk but refused to give him sugar. My brother screamed for taking sugar. My mother said, "The kitten has grabbed the sugar." My brother shouted, “Come and give back the sure, kitten.” Of course, there was no cat, and if he did, you wouldn't understand what my brother was saying, or if he did, he wouldn't know to say that your mother was lying. I am not eating sugar at all.” (pp. 26 and 27).

The following point is considerable regarding the memory:

How is it possible that a person remembers a memory from the infancy period which is naturally until two years of age? If we consider the memory related to the last days of the narrator’s infancy, then, he was two years old. Now the question is whether the structure and the general and partial tissues of the brain, especially the part of the brain cells involved in registering and recording memory at that time, have been fully formed? Apparently, this is not possible until the age of three.

Thus, how has the narrator been able to remember a memory from his two years of age? In answering to the question, several possibilities can be accepted or raised:

A: Dr. Azimi's brain structure was formed by the age of two, and the memory cell storage section in the memory section began to function, so this memory is real, and the narrator has recounted it without intermediaries and personally based on his own mental memories of that time. Based on this, we must say that Dr. Azimi's brain is exceptional and unique

B: The narrator has heard this memory from his mother, especially during childhood, and it has been engraved in the narrator's mind so much that it has become impossible to imagine anything other than the narrator's own personal memory. In fact, telling this memory and repeating it several times by the mother has immortalized this story in Dr. Azimi's memory. As it is thought, he narrates it directly.

C: For being able to have this memory in mind and to bring it to paper and publish it after about 80 years, the narrator or along with his brother have recounted it together many times, and it has been so sweet, funny and important that repeating it several times at different times has kept it in the mind of Dr. Azimi Bolourian.

In this writing, there is no intention to judge whether the memory is true or false, or it is verified. Rather, the sole purpose is to explore the originality and formation of this memory and, if possible, to pay special attention to the owners of the memoirs about the expression of their narrations and the validity and authenticity of their statements. Of course, it should be noted that the writer of these lines remembers how he traveled to the holy city of Karbala at the age of about 3.5 years in 1977, and has in mind some memories of his one-month presence with his family at that time some of which is sometimes with details and sometimes just a general perspective and that's it.

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