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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one book, read this one!
I am so glad this book has been republished! I read it probably back in the late 60s early 70s and fell completely under its spell. It is THE best love story I have ever read. It will tear at your heart strings even more than Gone with the Wind and Casablanca and will remain in your mind and heart forever! I have waited all this time to see this made into a film! It could...
Published on 4 Nov 2000 by jesjaspers

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Despite flaws, an interesting book
In the early 20th Century in the multicultural oil boomtown of Baku (then part of Imperial Russia, today the capital of Azerbaijan) a young Azeri Muslim, Ali, becomes enamored of a pretty Christian Georgian girl, Nino. Against all odds (given the cultural prejudices against interreligious romances in the conservative Caucasus) they would develop a relationship, moving to...
Published on 9 Dec 2011 by Andres C. Salama


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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one book, read this one!, 4 Nov 2000
By 
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
I am so glad this book has been republished! I read it probably back in the late 60s early 70s and fell completely under its spell. It is THE best love story I have ever read. It will tear at your heart strings even more than Gone with the Wind and Casablanca and will remain in your mind and heart forever! I have waited all this time to see this made into a film! It could be an epic.
It is set in the Caucus, around Baku, and tells the story of teenagers Ali Khan (a Muslim) and Nino Kipiani (a Christian) as they fall in love across the divide of culture and religion, amidst the looming prospect of war. This story has everything - the cultural, religious and political tensions of the time are as relevant today. I have always remembered Nino's call to Ali " I am dying of heat and mathematics". I have thought about this book often in the intervening years during the turmoil of the Middle East, the Lebanese civil war, the ravages of the former Yugoslavia. There are many Ali and Ninos, this surely is their story as well!
If you read no other book this year, you must read this one!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden gem!,, 31 July 2008
By 
Gogol (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
An exellent book so well written it is such a shame it is still little known.

Kurban Said otherwise known as Essad Bey was an Azeri Jew who converted to Shia Islam, wrote a number of novels (and a biography of Muhammad under the name Essad Bey) lived in Russia for a time before living out the rest of his days in Central Europe. His life reflects much of the characters he wrote about and the complex world they lived in.

The novel is a love story between Ali an Azeri Shia of a noble family and Nino a Georgian christian. The story surrounds their lives growing up in the turbluant world leading up to World War 1. How their love brought them together but their cultures tore them apart.

The reason I put a brief biography of the author is that to know him is to understand how he could write with such insight into the various cultures of the Caucuses both Christian and Muslim. His insights into the Shia rituals such as Ashura, the culture of Iran and the hopeless decline of the Persian empre.

While the writer covers this so well I feel at times he does go a little overboard on the wole east Vs west and the whole emphasis on Christian Nino seeing Ali as some kind of 'romantic barbarian' is a little silly. The Georgian people are proud of their own wild rustic culture and the Persians are hardly some kind of Bedowin desert people.

Still, this book realy does capture the time so well, in a maner that other writers on that most beautiful of lands such as Tolstoy and Pushkin would be proud.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The translator and the original opening of 'Ali and Nino', 8 April 2012
By 
This swept me off my feet, for the reasons so well given by other reviewers. I immediately contacted the late translator, Jenia Graman, whose own story is fantastic in itself. She was a British citizen, with a Romanian mother and British father, an oilman in Persia. The family fled the Russian Revolution from Odessa to Prague, where Jenia was trapped by the German occupation in 1939. It was while working as an art teacher at a military academy in Potsdam during WW2 that she found the first, 1937 edition of 'Ali und Nino' in the ruins of a bombed-out antiquarian bookshop in Berlin. She fell in love with it and resolved to translate it.

I have retranslated the opening page of the novel, because Jeni Graman thought the original opening would be a little confusing. I don't think she was right, and her editorial change was at the expense of a wonderful parody of schoolmasterly scholarship.

I sent my new corrected version to Vintage. (Don't worry, Jenia's translation is magical. It was the reason I tracked her down and visited her in the first place.)
Jenia Graman, the translator of this book, who I went to see and to speak to in the seventies in her house in East Sheen, told me that she had altered the opening of the book, to help English readers. She feared such readers would be put off by being plunged into a slightly parodic and didactic geography lesson about an unfamiliar part of the world. Having spent most of her life abroad,she my have underrated the insular English reader.

I believe the book's original beginning should be restored, thus displaying not only the fictional professor's recondite knowledge of European geography, but also the author's.

Vintage have refused to correct the translation, because they say they are under contract to publish the old version, about whose copyright there is some dispute. I believe that no dispute can alter the preferability and probably the legality of a corrected translation.

`Ali and Nino'

Translation of the opening paragraphs

`To its north, south and west, Europe is surrounded by sea. The Northern Polar Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic Ocean form its natural limits. Scientific
knowledge regards the island of Magero as the northernmost point of Europe, of which its southern and respectively western counterparts are the island of Crete and the islands off Dunmore Head. Europe's eastern border runs through Imperial Russia, through the Urals, bisects the Caspian Sea and then runs through Transcaucasia. However, scientific knowledge does not end here. Whereas some scholars regard the territory south of the Caucasus mountain range as belonging to Asia, others - particularly with respect to the cultural development of Transcaucasia - regard this territory too to be part of Europe. It can therefore be said . . . etc. (as p.13 l.6 up of the current Vintage edition) up to `reactionary Asia.'

(Then:)

The professor chuckled smugly. The forty pupils of Class 3 of the Imperial Russian Humanist High School of Baku in Transcausasia held their breath before the dizzy heights of learning and the burden of their responsibility.

For a while - we thirty Muslims, four Armenians, two Poles, three sectarians, and one Russian - fell silent. Then Mehmed Haidar, on the last bench, raised his hand and said: `Please, sir, we would rather stay in Asia.'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Despite flaws, an interesting book, 9 Dec 2011
By 
Andres C. Salama (Buenos Aires, Argentina) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
In the early 20th Century in the multicultural oil boomtown of Baku (then part of Imperial Russia, today the capital of Azerbaijan) a young Azeri Muslim, Ali, becomes enamored of a pretty Christian Georgian girl, Nino. Against all odds (given the cultural prejudices against interreligious romances in the conservative Caucasus) they would develop a relationship, moving to different locales during the story (like Tehran, Dagestan or Georgia) against the backdrop of international conflicts (World War I, the Russian Revolution, the first and fleeting independence of Azerbaijan) that many times would draw them in.

There is still some controversy of who the author of this novel was. The book was published in Austria in 1937 in the German language, by Kurban Said, a pseudonym. It seems very likely that the real author was one Lev Nussimbaum, a Russian Jew who lived in Baku during his childhood and who would settle in Germany and later Austria after the Russian Revolution. Nussimbaum, who was something of an adventurer, had already published several books on subjects such as Islam and the Caucasus under the name Essad Bey. It is fitting I think that the author was Nussimbaum, since the book was clearly written by someone who was knowledgeable about the customs of the Azeris and Georgians but who was neither Muslim nor Christian.

The book suffers a bit from what is today called Orientalism (that is, too much focus on the exoticism of that part of the world in the eyes of European readers) and also, in my opinion, from the faux naive prose that is charming at the beginning but becomes tiresome after a while. Still, this is an interesting book, with some witty things to say about the differences between East and West (for instance, Europeans love the green of forests and pastures, Muslims love the brown of mountains and deserts. Or, the part on how in Persia the love of poetry has come at the expense of technological backwardness).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a love story, 4 Oct 2007
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
Truly the best love story and a very modern one at that.

Although it's a love story, it's so much more than just that. Ali and Nino is also a book about the divide between East and West and Islam and Christianity and the huge cultural gulfs between the two and whether that can be bridged or not - a very modern theme. This is a subject the author is very passionate about and it gets a lot of attention in the book.

Set in the turbulent times around World War I and leading up to the Russian Revolution, Ali and Nino is a tale about the love between a Muslim boy (Ali) and a Georgian orthodox christian girl (Nino).

It starts out in Baku on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Baku is one of the world's first great oil towns but also a town founded by Zoroastrians so a very romantic setting. Then the action moves to Nagorno Karabakh - one-time mountain holiday area for people living in Baku and then moves around all over the Caucasus. The cast of characters is as diverse as the region - Russians, Azeris, Georgians and Armenians and others.

I've read it several times and loved it as much on each read as I did on the first one. (I don't normally re-read books, so that shows how well this book stands up and how well written it is.) My parents read it and loved it and everyone I've given the book to has loved it. I've yet to meet someone who didn't recognize it for the masterpiece it is.

Read it if you're interested in the Caucasus, read it if you like a good love story, or read it if you're worried about the consequences of today's conflict between east and west on human relationships.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A little gem of a book., 23 Oct 2014
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
This novel was published in German in 1937, but it was not until 1970 that a chance find resulted in it being republished in English. It represents a rare view into a time long passed, narrated by a youngster who meets the love of his life in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Ali Khan Shirvanshir is a Muslim from the oil rich desert town of Baku and Nino Kipiani is a Christian princess from Georgia. Their paths cross while still in school and Ali Khan is completely besotted. As the first World War approaches, the novel narrates the opinions of the day from an Asian view-point. Georgia is in Europe and Nino's family sees events with a different eye, this is not an acceptable match from their point of view.
Ali Khan is determined, but also very respectful. He treats Nino better than many men of his era treated their women.

I was particularly fascinated by the references to kidnapping with a view to marriage. I had never heard of this practice until a recent visit to Kyrgyzstan, where our guide informed us that it still took place, even now.

Initially Ali Khan resists the move to fight with Russia, he feels this is not his war, but as events bring the battles much closer to home he joins his compatriots in defending Baku.
The ending is both sad and brilliant. An excellent book that I will probably read again in the future.
4.5 stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating romance set in early 20th C Azerbaijan, 11 July 2008
By 
Annabel Gaskell "gaskella2" (Nr Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
Azerbaijan in the early 20th century was at the crossroads of civilisations, cultures and religions. Set against this backdrop at the start of WWI is this love story of Ali, a desert loving-Muslim, and Nino, a Christian Georgian princess who yearns to be more European. Theirs is a childhood romance that eventually blossoms fully and they marry despite many obstacles put in their way. However it finally becomes clear that Ali's real love is for his country which can only lead to tragedy.
Ali and Nino is a rediscovered novel, written in the 1930s and published in Vienna, then found and translated into English in the 1950s. It gives a fascinating glimpse of what life was like amongst the ruling classes in this cultural melting pot; neighbour to Persia, but stuck between the warring Turks and Russians. With derring-do, glamour, philosophy, and romance, this novel has everything, but ultimately failed to totally grab me - maybe because of Ali's lack of ambition and liking of an easy life, until his patriotic awakening. It was a very good, but not quite brilliant read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book, as relevant today as it was then, 12 Jun 2000
By A Customer
Pre-independence Azerbaijan, early 20th century Persia, Daghestan...a world caught between old and new, between the retreating forces of the East and the seemingly triumphant West. It's supposed to be a love story but it is a lot more than that. Revealing and fascinating insight into an 'Asiatic' shi'aa world of which too little is known, of a Muslim community caught between the desire to maintain the traditions of the East, and the necessary clash with the economic and military might of the West. The bit that really stuck a chord:
'I have heard things,'said a man with dreaming eyes in a face dedicated to Death, 'a man has appeared in Persia by the name of Reza, he is leading many soldiers and chasing the enemy as a hunter chases the deer. Kemal is sitting in Ankara. He has amassed an army. We do not fight in vain. Twenty-five thousand men are marching to help us.'
'No,' I said, 'not twenty-five thousand men - two hundred and fifty million men marching, all the Muslims in the world. But whether they will come in time God only knows.'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars East meets West: a troublesome romance, 1 Sep 2011
By 
jacr100 "jacr100" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
A book that lay undiscovered and obscure for two decades until it was rediscovered on a Berlin bookstall in the 1950s, Ali and Nino examines the struggle for Azerbaijani identity through the love of Ali Khan Shirvanshir - a Muslim from a noble family of warriors - and Nino, a Christian Georgian princess. Their romance, which begins at school and continues through the turmoil of the First World War, tests each of their abilities to accept the other's customs and aspirations, while placating the disapproval of their friends and families.

The chapters are short, which makes for a fluid narrative, and the writing at times deeply sensual, especially when Ali Khan is evoking the sounds and smells of his homeland. Although forward-looking for its time, a modern reader may find it awkwardly conservative, as the main characters often seem like stereotypes of their cultures. But the erudition of the novel is rich, and the evocation of its era deeply realistic; there's also a teasing conundrum, in that we never really work out whether we are supposed to approve of a love that spans a social divide, or see it as an impossible dream.

Style: 7/10

Structure: 8/10

Originality: 6/10

Depth: 6/10

Unputdownability: 7/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly written by a great writer, 28 Feb 2011
This review is from: Ali And Nino: A Love Story (Paperback)
It is the best book I have read about Caucasus, absolute masterpiece. It gives information about the nature, cities and interests of countries in the Caucasus as well as the true faces of nations living in Caucasus.
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Ali And Nino: A Love Story
Ali And Nino: A Love Story by Kurban Said (Paperback - 5 Oct 2000)
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