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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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English (24)  Dutch (3)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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 |

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 book was written in 1937 but it feels as if it was written very recently. Although the title says it's a love-story, it's primarily a story of the differences between East and West, Muslims and Christians, male and female, epitomized in the persons of Ali, a rich muslim boy and Nino, a Georgian christian living in Azerbaijan during the First World War. The turmoil in Azerbaijan, the difference of cultures (Arab, Georgian, Russian, Armenian, Turkish, Persian, ...) that clash and gell, the richess, the beauty, the ugliness of the cultural identity, honour and friendship is breathtaking. In the midst of all this turmoil are Ali and Nino who try to find a compromise to make each other happy without compromising their own soul and identity.
This is a magnificent book which not only gives you an insight into a fragment of the history of Azerbaijan but also into the meaning of a cultural identity.
There's also some mystery to the identity of Kurban Said.. It was a pen-name for the mysterious Turkish-Arab Essad Bey. Only in the 1990's it was discovered that Bey was actually Lev Nussimbaum, a jew who was born in Baku. More on Kurban Said can be found in the book The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life by Tom Reiss. ( )
  JustJoey4 | Jun 13, 2012 |
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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First words
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.
Last words
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 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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