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The Orientalist

Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, Nominiert: Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, 2006. Nominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2006

Tom Reiss

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Beschreibung

A thrilling page-turner of epic proportions, Tom Reiss's panoramic bestseller tells the true story of a Jew who transformed himself into a Muslim prince in Nazi Germany. Lev Nussimbaum escaped the Russian Revolution in a camel caravan and, as "Essad Bey,” became a celebrated author with the enduring novel Ali and Nino as well as an adventurer, a real-life Indiana Jones with a fatal secret. Reiss pursued Lev's story across ten countries and found himself caught up in encounters as dramatic and surreal-and sometimes as heartbreaking-as his subject's life.

"Spellbinding history . . . part detective yarn, part author biography, part travel saga . . . The Orientalist is completely fascinating."
-The Dallas Morning News

"Rarely in the literary annals of identity confusion has there been a tale as gripping. . . . A captivating and disquieting parable of the mystery of identity . . . truly page-turning."
-The Miami Herald

"Sympathetic, elegant, and extraordinarily affecting . . . Reiss's storytelling panache [is] spellbinding."
-Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Thrilling, novelistic and rich with the personal and political madness of early-twentieth-century Europe."
-Entertainment Weekly

"A brainy, nimble, remarkable book."
-Chicago Tribune

"A wondrous tale, beautifully told . . . mesmerizing, poignant, and almost incredible. Reiss, caught up in the spell of Essad Bey, has turned around and worked some magic of his own."
-The New York Times

"For sheer reading pleasure . . . this book cannot be bettered."
-The New York Sun

Tom Reiss has written about politics and culture for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and daughters in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

Produktdetails

Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 496
Erscheinungsdatum 01.03.2006
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-8129-7276-4
Verlag Random House LCC US
Maße (L/B/H) 20.3/13.4/3.2 cm
Gewicht 410 g
Abbildungen 8PP B/W PHOTO SECTION 3 PART- OPENER ILLUSTRATIONS

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  • Introduction
    On the Trail of Kurban Said

    On a cold November morning in Vienna, I walked a maze of narrow streets on the way to see a man who promised to solve the mystery of Kurban Said. I was with Peter Mayer, the president of the Overlook Press, a large, rumpled figure in a black corduroy suit who wanted to publish Said's small romantic novel Ali andNino.Mayer tended to burst into enthusiastic monologues about thebook: "You know how when you look at a Vermeer, and it's an interior,and it's quite quiet, yet somehow, what he does with perspective, with light, it feels much bigger-that's this novel!" A love story set in the Caucasus on the eve of the Russian Revolution, Ali and Nino had been originally published in German in 1937 and was revived in translation in the seventies as a minor classic. But the question of the author's identity had never been resolved. All anyone agreed on was that Kurban Said was the pen name of a writer who had probably come from Baku, an oil city in the Caucasus, and that he was either a nationalist poet who was killed in the Gulags, or the dilettante son of an oil millionaire, or a Viennese café-society writer who died in Italy after stabbing himself in the foot. In the jacket photograph of a book called Twelve Secrets of the Caucasus, the mysterious author is dressed up as a mountain warrior-wearing a fur cap, a long, flowing coat with a sewn-in bandolier, and a straight dagger at his waist. Mayer and I were on our way to a meeting with a lawyer named Heinz Barazon, who was challenging Overlook over proper author credit on the novel.

    Barazon claimed to know the true identity of Kurban Said, and as the lawyer for the author's heirs, he was insisting that it be acknowledged in the new edition of Ali and Nino or he would block publication. At the lawyer's address, next to a shop where some old women were bent over tables with needle and thread, we were buzzed into a lobby that could have had the grime of the Anschluss on its fixtures. Mayer squeezed my arm with excitement and said, "It's The Third Man!" Barazon's appearance didn't do anything to dispel the atmosphere of a Cold War thriller. He was a small man with a gravelly voice, a stooped back, and a clubfoot that made a tremendous racket as he led us down his book-lined hallway. "You have both come a long way to discover the identity of Kurban Said," he said. "It will all soon become clear to you." He ushered us into a room where a gaunt and beautiful blond woman with enormous glassy eyes was lying motionless on a couch. "Pardon me, this is Leela," said Barazon. "I hope you'll forgive me," Leela said in a fragile, precise voice. "I must remain lying down because I'm ill. I can't sit for long." Barazon came directly to the point: the novel Ali and Nino was written by the Baroness Elfriede Ehrenfels von Bodmershof, the second wife of Leela's father, Baron Omar-Rolf von Ehrenfels, and when Baroness Elfriede died, in the early 1980s, having outlived her husband, all rights to the work had passed down to Leela.

    Barazon produced a thick file of documents that backed up this story: publishing contracts, legal papers, and author lists from the late thirties, stamped with Nazi eagles and swastikas. Under the entry for "Said, Kurban" in the author's section of the 1935-39 Deutscher Gesamtkatalog-the Third Reich's equivalent of Books in Print-it said, in no uncertain terms, "pseudonym for Ehrenfels, v. Bodmershof, Elfriede, Baroness." The Nazi documents seemed to tell a clear story-that Baroness Elfriede had been Kurban Said-but it was one that I believed to be untrue. I had become interested in the identity of Kurban Said in the spring of 1998, when I went to Baku to write about the city's new oil boom- virtually the first signs of life since the Russian Revolution made time stop there in 1917. Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, a tiny country that prides itself on being the easternmost point in E