The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life

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Click for availability and more information The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss

This book was born of a magazine piece for the New Yorker. Reiss spent years trying to track down the mysterious author of the book Ali and Nino, a Muslim/Christian Romeo & Juliet type story from the 1920s. Claimants to the title included, amongst others, a German Baroness, but the real author was a Jewish born Baku native called Avram Nussimbaum... or Kurban Said ... or Essad Bey. Reiss follows his fascinating short life from its beginnings as the son of a rich Jewish oil baron and Russian revolutionary of noble lineage to its impoverished end in Italy at the age of 38. Reiss manages to bring early 20th century Europe to vivid life, from the Russian Revolution, through the rise of Nazism and World War II. He also offers a background on the rise of the Zionist movement, and the tradition of Jewish scholars in Muslim culture. There is so much detail in this book, that it is best savored in small bits. I learned more from this book about more things that I ever expected when I picked it up. It is definitely a worthwhile read.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on March 8, 2005 5:43 PM.

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