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Ali and Nino by Kurban Said
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Ali and Nino (1937)

by Kurban Said

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English (24)  Dutch (3)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
A little gem of a book.

This novel was published in German in 1937, but it was not until 1970 that a chance find resulted in it being republished in English. It represents a rare view into a time long passed, narrated by a youngster who meets the love of his life in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Ali Khan Shirvanshir is a Muslim from the oil rich desert town of Baku and Nino Kipiani is a Christian princess from Georgia. Their paths cross while still in school and Ali Khan is completely besotted. As the first World War approaches, the novel narrates the opinions of the day from an Asian view-point. Georgia is in Europe and Nino's family sees events with a different eye, this is not an acceptable match from their point of view.
Ali Khan is determined, but also very respectful. He treats Nino better than many men of his era treated their women.

I was particularly fascinated by the references to kidnapping with a view to marriage. I had never heard of this practice until a recent visit to Kyrgyzstan, where our guide informed us that it still took place, even now.

Initially Ali Khan resists the move to fight with Russia, he feels this is not his war, but as events bring the battles much closer to home he joins his compatriots in defending Baku.
The ending is both sad and brilliant. An excellent book that I will probably read again in the future. ( )
  DubaiReader | Oct 23, 2014 |
Despite the rather abrupt ending, I really found this magical. The descriptions were beautiful and I really felt like I was there.
  amyem58 | Jul 16, 2014 |
Interesting bookplate of Countess Mara Bninski - prefacing an interesting East-West love story still pretty much relevant today
  jon1lambert | Jul 21, 2013 |
Azerbaijan.

There's a lot of nice language in this 1937 novel by Kurban Said. This is a pseudonym for Lev Nussimbaum--or is it? Though the novel stands nicely on its own, half the fun is the mystery of its authorship.

The novel itself is about Ali Khan, an Azeri Muslim, and his love, Nino Kipiani, a Christian Georgian girl. Their relationship is emblematic of both the fruits and strain of the meeting of Europe and Asia. Said does a good job of beginning with a simple narrative from the perspective of a youth and gradually increasing the complexity as he ages and as his city of Baku, Azerbaijan is pulled into the Bolshevik Revolution. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
This unabashedly Orientalist love story, first published in 1937, details the love story between the Azeri boy Ali (standing for Islam and the mystique of the East) and the Georgian girl Nino (symbolising Europe, Christendom and civilisation) against the short-lived independence of Azerbaijan around WWI. The author clearly had some familiary with the Caucasus, and I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of life in old Baku, Dagestan and Teheran, or of the customs of the other nations that co-existed there, such as Georgians, Armenians and Russians. Its sentimentality and its stock characters have aged a bit, and failed to move me. The book ends as could be expected: East is East and West is West.
Not knowing that the original had been written in German, I have read this in the English translation, which was old-fashioned and a bit clunky at times (except when it mentioned "joy boys" as potential competitors for the wives in the harem, which suddenly sounded quite modern). The translator omitted to adapt the transliteration out of the Russian to English spelling, resulting in oddities such as 'salam alejkum', 'Iljas' instead of 'Ilyas' and 'Azerbeidschan', which might puzzle readers who don't know German spelling conventions. ( )
  fist | May 21, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kurban Saidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Meijerink, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reiss, TomAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We were a very mixed lot, we forty schoolboys who were having a Geography lesson one hot afternoon in the Imperial Russian Humanistic High School of Baku, Transcaucasia: thirty Mohammedans, four Americans, two Poles, three Secretarians, and one Russian.
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Kurban Said is a pseudonym, probably for Lev Nissimbaum.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385720408, Paperback)

As is true of all great literature, Kurban Said's Ali and Nino has timeless appeal. Set in the years surrounding the Russian Revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union, Said's tale of an Azerbaijani Muslim boy in love with a Georgian Christian girl is both tender and disturbingly prescient. The novel, first published in 1937, begins as Ali Khan Shirvanshir is finishing his last year of high school:
We were a very mixed lot, we forty schoolboys who were having a Geography lesson one hot afternoon in the Imperial Russian Humanistic High School of Baku, Transcaucasia: thirty Mohammedans, four Armenians, two Poles, three Sectarians, and one Russian.
The multi-ethnic Baku, it seems, stands at a crossroads between West and East, and, as the smug Russian professor informs his pupils, it is their responsibility to decide "whether our town should belong to progressive Europe or to reactionary Asia." For Ali Khan Shirvanshir there is no doubt--he belongs to the East; his beloved Nino, however, is "a Christian, who eats with knife and fork, has laughing eyes and wears filmy silk stockings."

Far away, to the West, there are rumblings of war. When the Russian Revolution begins, Ali Khan chooses not to fight; the Czar's fate is of little interest to a Muslim living in far away Transcaucasia. But the young man senses that another, greater danger is gathering on his country's borders--an "invisible hand" trying to force his world into new ways, the ways of the West. He assures his worried father that, like his ancestors, he is willing to die in battle, but at a time of his own choosing. In the meantime, he courts Nino and eventually marries her in the teeth of scandal and opposition. This union of East and West is at times a difficult one as Ali Khan finds himself lured further and further into European ways. When Soviet troops invade, however, he must choose once and for all whether to stand for Asia or Europe.

One of the many pleasures Ali and Nino offers is Kurban Said's lovingly rendered evocations of Muslim culture. Another is his compassionate portrait of the protagonists' difficult but profound relationship. Modern readers coming to this novel in the wake of the fall of Communism, outbreaks of sectarian violence, and the rise of religious fundamentalism will find disturbing parallels in its cautionary chronicle of cultures colliding and a way of life brutally destroyed. In the end, however, it is not historical accuracy, but rather the charm and passion of the title characters that lifts Said's only novel into literature's highest ranks. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:56 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A reprint of a love story of two childhood friends, a Muslim warrior and a Christian girl, during the Russian Revolution. Set on the Caspian Sea, the novel symbolizes the clash of cultures between East and West. It was first published in German in 1937.… (more)

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