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

by Kurban Said

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (31)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Colorful and progressive and moving story about an interracial and interreligous couple. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Aug 29, 2018 |
I have a book club that "reads around the world." For such a tucked away country as Azerbaijan, this book packs an unexpected punch. It is a delicate weaving of plot with geographical details, historical facts, and cultural nuances, creating a graceful balance that is perfect for this genre.

One reviewer mentioned that the book seems to be divided into 3 flowing phases: the first third drops names of various leaders throughout Middle Eastern history, in which you might find yourself floundering until you can grasp that "Mohammedan" is used synonymously in the book with East/Asiatic, and "Georgian" is synonymous with West/Europe/Christian. Once you get a feel for this rocking back and forth of East/West, Asia/Europe, Muslim/Christian, you'll be able to orient yourself within the story.

By this time, the plot starts rolling, and you are becoming more familiar with the characters and taking an interest in their activities. I personally found a topic or two each chapter to spend a few minutes researching on the internet (since the novel is so geographically-, historically-, and culturally-grounded), and the pictures and articles I looked through really helped the story come to life in a spectacular way, and vice versa.

Take quotes such as this:

"The glowing breath of Zoroaster's fire swept across the plain on the wings of the desert wind."

This perhaps seem loquacious, until your side-reading leads you to discover that not only does Azerbaijan have large reserves of natural gas, but that gas has escaped to the surface in some areas creating fires that have been burning for years. These "eternal fires" are thought to have played an important role in Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan and Persia.

Cultural nuances dig deeper from there as the author explains the context of the time, so it will help if you spend a minute or two reading about Shia/Sunni Islam and the "Mourning of Muharram." Soon you find yourself rolling into the final third of the book, where you feel fully settled into the historical context, and then the book becomes a page-turner.

This novel is absolutely a gem and a shining example of historical fiction that will unlock the thoughts and mystery of Azerbaijan. ( )
  kiiks52 | Apr 16, 2018 |
"What you feel for the trees, I feel for the desert", 24 July 2016

Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
Set in WW1 era Azerbaijan, this is the extremely interesting story of (narrator) Ali, a Muslim, and his love-marriage with a beautiful Christian girl.
From the very first page, the theme of this book - the duality of Azerbaijan in both location and cultural evolution (is it Europe or Asia?) - is brought to the fore. And the differences in outlook between the two protagonists emphasize the total dissimilarity of cultures.
Nino is a privileged, educated young woman, yet when staying with her Muslim in-laws is expected to remain hidden away in the harem - well-bred friends wouldn't dream of even asking about Ali's wife, Meanwhile Ali chafes at her decorating the house in western style as he realises increasingly that he is a true Muslim and a son of Baku, ready to become involved in fighting for her independence, as Russia, Turkey and England have armies out there...

There were some lovely descriptions of a remot part of the world, and I learned a lot about the lifestyle and the politics, yet I didn't really care about the characters and didn't hugely enjoy it. ( )
1 vote starbox | Jul 23, 2016 |
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. ( )
1 vote petrificius | Apr 12, 2016 |
Really worth reading for its depiction of melding of Christian and Muslims cultures in George and Iran. ( )
1 vote seschanfield | Mar 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Said, Kurbanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chamanzaminli, Yusif Vazirsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fick-Lugten, W. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graman, JeniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome 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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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)

» see all 3 descriptions

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