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Ali and Nino by Kurban Said

Ali and Nino (1937)

by Kurban Said

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
When I picked Ali and Nino for my Books-of-Asia read from Azerbaijan, I was skeptical, owing to the fact that this is a love story, and I generally run away from romances. By the time I finished however, I was captivated. Ali and Nino is more than a love story. It is passion, religion, war, history, culture, honor, beliefs, friendship, and so much more.

Set in a small town in Baku, Azerbaijan at the onset of the First World War, it is a narrative through the eyes of Ali Khan Shirvanshir, growing up as a Mohammedan in a country home to various ethnicities, lying at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Nino Kipiani is a Georgian Christian who goes to the girls’ school in the same town, and they like each other. Their families and friends know it and accept it, despite the differences in culture and sensibilities.

In their quest to be together, they overcome a kidnap, a blood feud and a scandal, fleeing from Baku, through beautiful desert roads and remote villages in the mountains, to the neighboring Persia. Nino hates it there, as she is forced to abide by Persian customs she despises.
Eventually, the lovers (now married) move back to their homeland, but are forced to flee again when war comes to Baku. Ali now has to choose between his loyalties to his Asian family’s upbringing and his unwavering love and devotion to Nino.

By the time this novel finishes, you experience a time in history so fascinating, you can’t help feel sad it’s over. You know about harems, Muslim households, local beliefs, norms, wedding rituals, the place of women, Greek customs, camels and horses, deserts and trees, towns and bazaars; and it weaves a tapestry so rich in your mind, you wish you were exported to that era, even for a day.

Ali’s refusal to treat Nino as “an acre on which the man sows”, loving her just for who she is; Nino’s acceptance of Ali even when their customs are as different as chalk and cheese, and their ever-evolving relationship as they try to balance Eastern and Western beliefs in a marriage, are what makes these characters so endearing. I wasn’t aware how much I was rooting for them until the tragic, but powerful ending.

Ali and Nino is a beautiful, beautiful lesson in history, culture, love and war. A book the world deserves to know better. ( )
  petrificius | Apr 12, 2016 |
Really worth reading for its depiction of melding of Christian and Muslims cultures in George and Iran. ( )
  seschanfield | Mar 7, 2016 |
This interesting look at love between a Muslim man and a Christian girl is downright prophetic. It is set in 1917-1918, was written in 1937, and it still rings true today. The clash of culture and religion was well laid out. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 24, 2016 |
A lovely book. Although I usually dislike romance or love stories of any kind, this book was a nice exeption. Probably because there was so much information on other things as well (culture, religion, war, politics).
And that was also the reason, why it was a slow read. I'm glad this book from my wishlist, that I have wanted to read for so long, turned out quite nice :-) ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Oct 3, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kurban Saidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chamanzaminli, Yusif Vazirsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graman, JeniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meijerink, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nussimbaum, Levsecondary 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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Disambiguation notice
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:05 -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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