First published in Vienna in 1937, this classic story of romance and adventure has been compared to Dr. Zhivago and Romeo and Juliet. Its mysterious author was recently the subject of a feature article in the New Yorker, which has inspired a forthcoming biography. Out of print for nearly three decades until the hardcover re-release last year, Ali and Nino is Kurban Said's masterpiece. It is a captivating novel as evocative of the exotic desert landscape as it is of the passion between two people pulled apart by culture, religion, and war.
It is the eve of World War I in Baku, Azerbaijan, a city on the edge of the Caspian Sea, poised precariously between east and west. Ali Khan Shirvanshir, a Muslim schoolboy from a proud, aristocratic family, has fallen in love with the beautiful and enigmatic Nino Kipiani, a Christian girl with distinctly European sensibilities. To be together they must overcome blood feud and scandal, attempt a daring horseback rescue, and travel from the bustling street of oil-boom Baku, through starkly beautiful deserts and remote mountain villages, to the opulent palace of Ali's uncle in neighboring Persia. Ultimately the lovers are drawn back to Baku, but when war threatens their future, Ali is forced to choose between his loyalty to the beliefs of his Asian ancestors and his profound devotion to Nino. Combining the exotic fascination of a tale told by Scheherazade with the range and magnificence of an epic, Ali and Nino is a timeless classic of love in the face of war.
First published in 1937 and issued in the U.S. by Random House in 1970, Said's romantic tale of young love and political upheaval in Central Asia calls for violins and handkerchiefs. Set mostly in Azerbaijan during WWI and the Russian Revolution, this captivating novel is a cinematic, at times melodramatic, mix of romance and wartime adventure. Its hero, narrator Ali Khan Shirvanshir, a Tartar and Shi'ite Muslim, flouts social convention by marrying his childhood friend, Nino Kipiani, a fair-skinned Georgian Christian. Ali rebels against a tradition-bound, male-chauvinist society typified by his father's pre-wedding advice: "Do not beat her when she is pregnant." When war erupts, Nino, ensconced in a villa in Tehran, keeps her pregnancy by Ali a secret as long as she can. Their marriage is a union of Western and Eastern sensibilities. Nino is unhappy in Persia, but Ali is reluctant to accompany her to Paris, where she flees with their infant daughter as Ali marches off to defend the short-lived Azerbaijani republic against the invading Red Army. Said (1905-1942) was born Lev Naussimbaum in Baku, the son of a German governess and a Jewish businessman. He combines starkly realistic depictions of war with colorful tableauxwild dances, an oral poetry competition, desert camels, a meddlesome eunuch. A saga of war and love and the difficult marriage of Europe and Asia in the Caucasus, this is at heart a rousing, old-fashioned, tear-jerking love story. (July)