The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life
He grew up in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. His mother was a Russi ...more
The Second Time Around
I've decided that this year (2016) I'll undertake an experiment, of sorts, to read books which I've rated highly some time back but which I haven't written reviews for or have only a vague memory of to see how they fare "the second time around."
This is not to be confused with my occasional rereading of perennial favorites such as Jane Austen, E.F. Benson, or Arthur Conan Doyle ("comfort reads"). No, I'm genuinely curious to see how the passa ...more
"Who is this Essad Bey?" Trotsky asked in a 1932 letter to his son. By then, this mysterious writer had written bestselling biographies of Mohammed and Stalin, a book on the oil industry in Baku (in the early 20th century the Texas of the Caucasus), and a steady stream of articles on literary and political subjects from Tolstoy and Dreiser to the Ottomans and Americans ("American History in Five Hundred Words").
In one photograph he appears as a sporty figure in a fez; in another he is dressed as ...more
Or we should prefer his purported pen name Kurban Said, author of Ali and Nino which is considered an Azeri national classic although written in German by an Ashkenazi Jew.
Lev, Essad (Lion in Arabic which makes sense) or Said was a son of an Jewish moghul of the first Baku oil boom; albeit he claimed to be a descentant of great Muslim Turkish and Persian extraction and indeed he dubiously converted to Islam at the Ottoman Turkish I ...more
While the history is relevant to Lev's life, there's a lot more history of the country, the politics, the people and the literary movements. I enjoyed the glimpses into the exotic places that I didn't really know a lot (or in some cases, knew nothing at all) abo ...more
Suddenly all the history preceding WWI & II & the creation of Israel was spelled out for me. Fascinating story of solving the mystery of Lev Nussbaum's eclectic life as a Jew, as a Muslim, as a writer...
Just learning that at the turn of the 20th Century, the British proposed moving Jews into Palestine to "stabilize the situation."???!!!! Lord, everything we have been taught to think today a ...more
People in the past had not have had benefits of our knowledge of how historic events have developed, and we cannot judge them based on what we know now.
This book is about a fascinating (stranger than in a novel) life of Jew from Baku who as teenager ran for his life from red army, converted to Islam and pretended to be a Musli ...more
Reiss persistently peeled away layers of fact and fiction to recount a remarkable life. He was also lucky: his subject's elusiveness made ferreting out truth difficult, but Reiss discovered six of Nussimbaum's notebooks in the possession of his last editor. Critics agree that The Orientalist fascinates from both a biographical and cultural perspective-it's rich in exotic settings and characters, from an Austrian baroness to a former Hollywood starlet. Despite its charm, the book has some faults....more
Tom Reiss did a marvelous job putting together the most convincing theory unveiling the identity of Qurban Said, and an equally admirable effort is devoted to uncovering the flaws ...more
Lev is fascinating, but somehow after a long read, I still had no sense of knowing him. I don't see this as really Reiss' fault. He has done meticulous research and found just about all that one could, more than one would expect. But why Lev was who ...more
The protagonist is the author of a Baku-centric romance beloved by Azerbaijanis, the Jewish son of an accidental Baku oil baron. The book follows his travels as he runs first from violent, overt ...more
I found it necessary to refer to an atlas and constantly turn back to pages where characters first appeared in order to ...more