The Orientalist

The Orientalist

Solving the Mystery of A Strange and A Dangerous Life

Large Print - 2005
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This book traces the life of Lev Nussimbaum, a Jew who transformed himself into a Muslim prince and became a best-selling author in Nazi Germany. Born in 1905 in Baku, at the edge of the czarist empire, Lev escaped the Russian Revolution in a camel caravan. He found refuge in Germany, where, writing under the names Essad Bey and Kurban Said, his remarkable books about Islam, desert adventures, and global revolution, became celebrated across fascist Europe. But his life grew wilder than his wildest stories. He married an international heiress who had no idea of his true identity--until she divorced him in a tabloid scandal. His closest friend in New York was arrested as the leading Nazi agent in the United States. He was invited to be Mussolini's official biographer--until the Fascists discovered his "true" identity. Under house arrest, he wrote his last book, helped by a mysterious half-German salon hostess, an Algerian weapons-smuggler, and the poet Ezra Pound. As he tracks down the pieces of Lev's deliberately obscured life, Reiss discovers a series of shadowy worlds--of European pan-Islamists, nihilist assassins, anti-Nazi book smugglers, Baku oil barons, Jewish Orientalists--that have also been forgotten. The result is a thoroughly unexpected picture of the twentieth century--of the origins of our ideas about race and religious self-definition, and of the roots of modern fanaticism and terrorism.
Publisher: Prince Frederick, MD : RB Large Print, 2005.
Edition: Large print ed.
ISBN: 9781419353246
Characteristics: xl, 709 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.


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Sep 07, 2020

What an extraordinary book! I've read it twice now and probably will again. First, just to follow the unbelievable trajectory of this man's life, the second time was to try to absorb the amazing amount of historical fact about a crucial part of the world we know so little about. I finished it thinking I need to read it again and do research on some of the amazing topics he touched on. The improbable escape from their homeland, his contact with the religious, isolated sect of Jews he stubbles upon during he and his father's escape, all linked to the tremendous world wide upheaval occurring at that time. If you need proof that real life is relentlessly more fascinating than fiction, read this book. My only question, why hasn't someone made a movie out of this man's life? 5 stars? I wish I could give it more

IndyPL_SteveB Jan 15, 2019

An amazing biography of a man nearly lost to history. This is about the life of the famous Islamic novelist and travel writer Essad Bey, who was possibly also Kurban Said, the author of what is considered the national novel of Azerbaijan. Essad Bey was actually Lev Nussimbaum, a Jew who had fled the Middle East to Berlin in the early 1920s, converted to Islam, and then fled Berlin in the 1930’s. He and his father escaped the Middle East on camels and had other adventures. During WW2, he came to the United States hoping to become a Hollywood writer, then eventually went to Italy and tried to talk Mussolini into letting him write his biography.

A lot of insight into the Middle East and eastern Europe in the period between the World Wars. The book is like nothing I have ever read before. Deeply researched and well-written.


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