|Who is it?||Actress|
Compare the two final scenes. The final paragraphs in Essad Bey's work Blood and Oil in the Orient describe him and his father stepping off the steamship and heading to the center of Constantinople [now Istanbul] to the international Grand Hotel. The narrator is impressed with the European-style posters advertising French entertainment: "The biggest Revue in the world at the Petits Chants today." Father and son decide to buy a French newspaper. And at that moment, Essad Bey confesses – almost in triumph: "At that moment Europe began for me. The old East was dead." The end. But the final scene in Ali and Nino takes us to the northern city of Ganja (Azerbaijan) where Ali Khan has taken up arms to fight against the advancing Bolsheviks. Historically, the Bolsheviks would go on to hijack the Azerbaijani government, on April 28, 1920. The situation is not fiction.
Panah Khalilov (alternative spelling: Penah Xelilov), as shown in the film Alias Kurban Said, is the creator of the Chamanzaminli archive. He referred in the film to a Chamanzaminli story published in 1907 which he believes is a "primary variant," rather than "the complete Ali and Nino." He also referred to "a book, written in German and published in Berlin" whose author had met Nussimbaum, had read Blood and Oil in the Orient, and "had written an essay about it in which he accuses him of insulting his people by saying that the core of the Azerbeidshan people were Jews" – a characterization that Cerkez Qurbanov, who translated Blood and Oil into Azeri, vociferously denied was true about Blood and Oil in the Orient.
Blair asserts that in the writings that Nussimbaum published as Essad Bey, he shows himself to have a negative attitude toward Azerbaijan, that when he left he was "thrilled to have closed that chapter of his life." He is "seemingly untouched emotionally" by Azerbaijan's loss of independence. In contrast, Ali and Nino portrays the country's conquest by the USSR in 1920 as an agonizing tragedy. Blair writes:
Considering the Berlin connection too remote, Blair proposes a Vienna connection. There is no evidence that Chamanzaminli ever visited Vienna, but Blair's speculates that the Writer "would have" traveled by train to Istanbul on his return to Baku in 1926 and "could have" gone to that city on his way, "to visit Tal at his publishing company." Blair implies hypothetically that a manuscript "would have" passed from Chamanzaminli's hands into Tal's possession at that moment. Blair purports that this stop in Vienna is possible because Chamanzaminli "would have" taken the Orient Express (which passed through Vienna) because it was "the most famous train route of its day."
A short story by Chamanzaminli, published in 1927, autobiographical in appearance, featured a starving Writer in Paris in the mid-1920s (when Chamanzaminli was there) who works as a ghostwriter producing articles under the signature of someone else and getting only 25 percent of the earnings for them. Blair offers this as a clue that Chamanzaminli had in reality, not in fiction, produced writings that appeared under others' signatures. Blair implicitly conjectures that the novel must have also passed out of his possession and that he thus lost the capacity to receive credit for its writing. Fikret Vezirov has proffered the claim that Chamanzaminli had to hide his identity behind the name Kurban Said so that he would not be identified with the anti-Bolshevik views contained in Ali and Nino. If Chamanzaminli had a copy of the manuscript, Vezirov said, it must have been among those Vezirov reports Chamanzaminli burning in 1937 when Chamanzaminli fell under the suspicion of the KGB. Vezirov referred to an article from the 1930s, the authors of which, in Vezirov’s characterization, resented Nussimbaum's use of the name "Essad Bey" and protested "that he wrote pornography that had nothing to do with history, that he was just inciting nations against each other." Vezirov cited the fact that his father had traveled to Iran, Tblisi, Kislovodsk, and Daghestan (all visited by the novel's characters) as another self-evident link. "Draw your own conclusions," he declared.
In The Orientalist Reiss cites the testimony of Alex Andre Brailowski (aka Alex Brailow), a schoolmate of Lev Nussimbaum's at the Russian gymnasium in Charlottenburg, Berlin. It is not clear from Reiss's account whether Brailow had been in touch with Nussimbaum during the 1930s, particularly in 1937 when Ali and Nino was first published in Vienna; in any case Reiss does not report that Brailow claimed receiving from Nussimbaum (or anyone else) any Verbal or written acknowledgement of Nussimbaum's authorship. Reiss quotes Brailow, in his unpublished memoirs, as remembering that Nussimbaum had a "talent for telling stories." Reiss further cites Brailow's unpublished introduction to a planned book entitled The Oriental Tales of Essad-Bey (a collection of Nussimbaum's early writings in Brailow's possession), in which Brailow interpreted characters in Ali and Nino as autobiographical references to Nussimbaum's schoolmates from his gymnasium. The Nino character, Brailow believed, was based on Nussimbaum's teenage love interest Zhenia Flatt. Reiss writes that because Zhenia Flatt "transferred her affections... to an older man named Yashenka," Brailow "always believed that Yasha was Lev’s model for Nachararyan, the 'evil Armenian' in Ali and Nino, who is Ali’s rival for Nino’s love." Brailow wrote: "The whole love affair, including the elopement of Nino and the subsequent pursuit and killing of Nachararyan, is as much of a wish-fulfillment as is the autobiography of Ali whose adolescence and youth are a curious mixture of Essad’s own and of what he would have liked them to be." Reiss also notes that Brailow also remembered an incident that recalls the moment in Ali and Nino in which Ali murders Nachararyan: "one day he pulled a knife on his tormentor and threatened to cut his throat. Brailow recalled that 'Essad, besides being a nervous type, seemed to indulge in outbursts of murderous rage, perhaps because he felt that this was his obligation as an ‘Oriental’ for whom revenge would be a sacred duty.' Brailow intervened to prevent his friend’s 'Caucasian temper' from leading to murder."
Austrian Baroness Elfriede Ehrenfels (1894–1982) registered the novel Ali and Nino with German authorities, and her niece Leela Ehrenfels (in association with the Baron Omar Rolf von Ehrenfel's second wife, the Baroness Mireille Ehrenfels-Abeille) has claimed that the pseudonym Kurban Said belonged to her aunt Elfriede, and that she wrote both Kurban Said novels, Ali and Nino and The Girl from the Golden Horn. No one has offered any robust contextual comparison between Ali and Nino and other known writings by Elfriede Ehrenfels, but Leela Ehrenfels has noted several coincidences between her aunt's and father's lives and writings that suggest their, or at least Elfriede's, authorship of the novel. One is that the April 20, 1937 working title of the novel was The Dying Orient, and her father and aunt (the Baron and Baroness Ehrenfels) had previously written an article together entitled "The Dying Istanbul." Another is that the Ehrenfels made a film entitled The Great Longing, which is "about a man who is disappointed with the world. And he is looking for true love or truth." (The unspoken implication may be that this is similar to Ali and Nino.) Third, Baron Omar Rolf von Ehrenfels set up the "Orient Bund" for Muslim students in Berlin "in order to bring Europeans and Muslims closer together." Leela Ehrenfels and Mireille Ehrenfels-Abeille have also said it is possible that Elfriede had an affair with Lev Nussimbaum. Fourth, according to the April 20, 1937 contract with E.P. Tal & Co., Baroness Elfriede was the author behind the pseudonym Kurban Said, and Leela has said, "that makes it obvious to me that she wrote both books. But it is possible that Essad Bey supplied some of the material. And that there are certain parts on which they worked together." Fifth, Leela Ehrenfels cites a September 14, 1938 letter from "Essad Bey" to Baroness Ehrenfels, written in Positano, Italy, in which he again refers to her as "Mrs. Kurban Said" and congratulates her on something unmentioned – Leela Ehrenfels interprets this as a reference to The Girl From the Golden Horn.
Reiss further quotes Nussimbaum's correspondence with Baron Omar-Rolf Ehrenfels in 1938 to show that Nussimbaum received royalty payments for Kurban Said publications via Baroness Ehrenfels, whom he referred to as "Mrs. Kurban Said." (Leela Ehrenfels cites a September 14, 1938 letter from "Essad Bey" to Baroness Ehrenfels, written in Positano, Italy, in which he again refers to her as "Mrs. Kurban Said" and congratulates her on something unmentioned – Leela Ehrenfels interprets this as a reference to The Girl From the Golden Horn.)
An Italian edition using the title Ali Khan appeared in 1944 with the author listed as M[ohammed] Essad Bey, Nussimbaum's pen name. In this edition, Nino Kipiani is called "Erika Kipiani" (obviously not a true Georgian name). The name of Nussimbaum's wife was "Erika", but she had run off with his colleague, René Fülöp-Miller, in a scandalous divorce (1935). Other changes were made in this edition as well.
The claim that the Azerbaijani Novelist Yusif Vazir, known popularly as Yusif Vazir Chamanzaminli, is the true author of Ali and Nino appears to have begun in the preface to the 1971 Turkish edition of the novel, in which the Turkish translator Semih Yazichioghlu, claimed that Lucy Tal, the late widow of the original publisher E.P. Tal, had written a letter stating that in the 1920s "a handsome young man" had "left a pile of manuscripts" that the company published in 1937. (Lucy Tal unequivocally denied having written the statement, calling the assertions "monstrous claims.")
Blair offers a further elaboration of this Vienna scenario based on a statement attributed to the original publisher's wife, Lucy Tal, which Tal vociferously denied ever making. Blair reports that the preface to the 1971 Turkish edition asserts that the author behind Kurban Said is Yusif Vazir Chamanzaminli. The translator, Semih Yazichioghlu, writes in this preface that two Azerbaijanis living in the United States – Mustafa Turkekul (who has said that he studied with Chamanzaminli in the 1930s) and Yusuf Gahraman (a former Teacher and radiologist) read the book when the first English translation came out in 1970. The two "recognized" the novel's descriptions of "familiar streets, squares, mansions" of Baku as well as "the names of some of the Oil Baron families mentioned in the book." They then contacted Random House, the publisher, "hoping to learn more about the identity of Kurban Said." They assert in this foreword that Lucy Tal (the wife of E.P. Tal, the novel's original Viennese publisher) had replied: "It was in the 1920s (Mrs. Tal couldn't remember exactly what year it was). A handsome young man came to the publishing house and spoke with my husband [E.P. Tal] at length and then left a pile of manuscripts. I still don't know what they talked about as my husband never told me... My husband went on to publish these manuscripts in 1937." Andreas Tietze translated this preface from Turkish into English on May 31, 1973 for Tal's Lawyer F.A.G. Schoenberg on May 31, 1973. Tietze, perhaps the first to give credence to the Chamanzaminli theory, commented that "the evidence, although not conclusive, does have a certain weight, and perhaps Chamanzaminli is really identical with Kurban Said." Yet within days of hearing of the quote attributed to her, Lucy Tal unequivocally denied having written the statement. In a letter to Schoenberg on June 2, 1973, Tal wrote: "Having read that document, I am quite startled. Never did I write such a letter to any Turks or anybody else. Why and what for? And it would have been so entirely unlike me. Such monstrous claims, how can one disprove them???" Tal und Co. published at least 15 books in Vienna in 1937 in addition to Ali und Nino.
Chamanzaminli's late sons Orkhan and Fikret have continued to make the claim. They began advocating for it at least by the 1990s after the first Azeri translation of Ali and Nino was published in 1990. An earlier Azeri translation had been made in 1972, but a complete rendering in Azeri, by Mirza Khazar, was published for the first time, serially, in three issues of the magazine Azerbaijan in 1990. Following this theory, Chamanzaminli has been listed as the author (rather than the standard "Kurban Said") in a number of editions, particularly in Azerbaijan where the has declared Chamanzaminli to be the author.
In 1998 Hans de Weers of Amsterdam-based Egmond Film & Television, sought to find American partners for a film adaptation of Ali & Nino, which was to be shot in English and written by Academy Award-winning Azerbaijani Screenwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov. De Weers was reported to have "pieced together 30% of the $8-million budget from the Netherlands and Azerbaijan."
Wendell Steavenson, in her 2002 book Stories I Stole: From Georgia reported that "Vazirov the younger called Lev Nussimbaum a fraudster, a 'charlatan', not a Bakuvian, who wrote twelve books 'of an adventurist nature' but had nothing to do with Ali and Nino. 'Ali and Nino', he declared 'is a pure Azerbaijani novel.' His father, he said, had written Ali and Nino and managed to get it published in Vienna through a cousin who lived there. There were too many details that matched: Kurban Said must have been an Azeri. 'He even knew all about a special kind of Shusha cheese, which only a man from Shusha would know about.' Vazirov argued."
In the 2004 film Alias Kurban Said, the Baroness Mireille Ehrenfels-Abeille said that Elfriede Ehrenfels "never" said "a single word" regarding Ali and Nino when she knew her after returning to Austria in 1960 from a long stay in India, explaining that "it was a different world, that had come to an end." In a 1999 interview with Tom Reiss, however, Baroness Ehrenfels-Abeille recounted that, in Reiss's description, "sometime in the early 1970s the baroness remembers getting the first inkling that Elfriede had once been Kurban Said." Baron Omar-Rolf Ehrenfels’s sister Imma informed Baroness Mireille Ehrenfels-Abeille that she had, the baroness told Reiss, "received a funny letter, some Doctor wanted to know if I’d written a book call[ed] Ali and Nino." Mireille asked Elfriede about it, and Elfriede said, "Naturally, Immi does not need to know everything. Yes, I produced it." The word "produced" is left ambiguous.
A moving metal sculpture created by Georgian Sculptor Tamara Kvesitadze in 2007, titled "Man and Woman," which is said to have been well received at the Venice Biennale of 2007, was installed in Batumi, Georgia in 2010 and re-titled "Ali and Nino," after the title characters of the Kurban Said novel. The novel was reportedly Kvesitadze's inspiration for the work. See the sculptor's web site in which the sculpture is still titled "Man and Woman"
Ali and Nino has been translated and published in the following languages: Albanian (2009), Arabic (1970, 2002, 2003, 2010), Azeri (1972, 1990, 1993, 2004 - twice, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012), Bengali (1995, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010), Bulgarian (1943, 2010), Catalan (2001), Chinese (PRC, 2007), Chinese (Taiwan, 2010), Czech (1939, 2006), Danish (2008), Dutch (1938, 1974, 1981, 1991, 2002, 2004, 2009), English (US 1970, UK 1970, UK 1971, Canada 1972, US 1990, UK 1990, US 1996 - three times, large print 2000, US 2000 - twice, UK 2000, US forthcoming 2013), Estonian (2014), Finnish (1972, 2000), French (1973 - twice), 2002, 2006), Georgian (2002, 2004), German (original language of publication; not translated) (1937 - original, 1973 - four times, 1981, 1989, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009), Greek (2002), Hebrew (2001), Hungarian (2002), Indonesian (2004), Italian (1944 as Alì Khàn, 2000, 2003), Japanese (1974, 2001), Korean (2005), Lithuanian (2012), Norwegian (1972, 2005), Persian (1983, 1992), Polish (1938 - three times), Portuguese (Brazil 2000, Portugal 2004, Romanian 2013), Russian (1994, 2002, 2003, 2004 - three times, 2007, 2008, 2010), Serbian (2003), Slovenian (2008), Spanish (1973, 2000, 2001, 2012), Swedish (1938 - twice, 1973), Turkish (1971, 2004, 2005), and Urdu (1993). The 2000 Anchor Books edition added the subtitle A Love Story, not present in on the original 1937 E. P. Tal & Co. edition.
In February 2010 an Azerbaijani news organization reported that Georgian film Director Giorgi Toradze was planning to make a "documentary" about the "creation" of Ali and Nino, though the description of the film in the news report suggested that it would be a fictional rendition. According to the report, the project "has been submitted to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture and Tourism by film Producer Giorgi Sturua."
Research findings by Betty Blair and associated researchers were published in a special 2011 edition of Azerbaijan International magazine entitled Ali and Nino: The Business of Literature. (Some articles are co-credited to other authors in addition to Blair.) Blair points to numerous parallels between events from Chamanzaminli's life and writings and the text of Ali and Nino. She offers only a small handful of circumstantial events in Chamanzaminli's life on the basis of which she constructs a hypothetical scenario in which a manuscript by Chamanzaminli – the existence of which is conjectural – would somehow have been written by him, then would have been acquired by the Viennese publisher, E.P. Tal. Somehow Lev Nussimbaum would have been given this hypothetical manuscript and would have "embellished" it before its publication.
A "musical re-imagining" of the novel, titled In the Footsteps of Ali and Nino, premiered in Paris at the Richelieu Amphitheater of University of Paris IV, Paris-Sorbonne in April 2012. Its "originator, project leader and pianist" was Azerbaijani Pianist Saida Zulfugarova. Her "soundtrack" to the novel used "both Georgian and Azerbaijani traditional music and works by Azer Rzaev, Uzeyir Hajibeyli, Vagif Mustafazadeh, Fritz Kreisler and, of course, Kara Karayev, amongst many others." It was directed by Charlotte Loriot.
Tamar Injia's book Ali and Nino – Literary Robbery! demonstrates that portions of Ali and Nino were "stolen" from the 1926 novel The Snake's Skin (Das Schlangenhemd) by Georgian author Grigol Robakidze. (It was published in Georgian in 1926 and in German in 1928. Injia analyzed the two books, found similar and identical passages, and concluded that "Kurban Said" (whom she identifies as Essad Bey) deliberately transferred passages from Robakidze's novel.
Tom Reiss has argued—first in a 1999 article in The New Yorker and then at greater length in his 2005 biography of Nussimbaum, The Orientalist—that it is "almost certain that Kurban Said was a cover for him so that he could continue to receive royalties from his work." Reiss cites and quotes documentary evidence not only linking the pseudonym Kurban Said to Nussimbaum and Baroness Elfriede Ehrenfels von Bodmershof, but also showing reasons that the Jewish Nussimbaum would have needed a new pseudonym after he was expelled from the (Nazi) German Writers Union in 1935, that he received income from books published under that name, and that he himself claimed authorship of Ali and Nino.
In this same letter Nussimbaum recommended to his addressee that "she buy a copy of Ali and Nino herself, bragging that it was his favorite of his own books." In another letter, Nussimbaum wrote of having had only two writing experience in which "I thought neither of the publishing company, nor of royalties, but just wrote happily away. These were the books Stalin and Ali and Nino," adding that "The heroes of the novel simply come to me demanding, ‘Give us shape’ — ‘we also possess certain characteristics that you’ve left out and we want to travel, among other things.’ " (Betty Blair has interpreted this statement as an "admission" that Nussimbaum had "gained access to the original manuscripts" already written by someone else, Yusif Vavir Chamanzaminli, and had "embellished them.") Reiss also quotes other letters in which Nussimbaum identifies himself as Kurban Said. In his final, unpublished manuscript, Der Mann der Nichts von der Liebe Verstand, Nussimbaum also refers to himself as "Ali."
Some scholars of Azerbaijani literature and culture, after being exposed to Blair's arguments, continue to express doubts about the possibility that Chamanzaminli is the novel’s author. Hamlet Isakhanli oglu Isayev, who chaired a December 2010 meeting in which Blair presented her findings, remarked that the findings "left many questions unanswered." Others have offered more specific criticisms. Leah Feldman, the 2010 recipient of the Heydar Aliyev award for scholarship on Azerbaijan, presented by the Consulate General of Azerbaijan and a research associate at Princeton University’s Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, who studies Orientalism and Azerbaijani literature, attended one of Blair’s presentations at the Writers' Union in Baku in December 2010. Feldman has characterized Betty Blair's approach as based on a "theory of authorship as autobiography," explaining that "Blair’s argument indicates that what she calls the 'core author' of Ali and Nino is not the man who penned the text (Essad Bey/Lev Nussimbaum) but rather the individual whose life and ideas are most readily expressed by the protagonists." Feldman’s assessment of the novel leans toward Nussimbaum as author. "To me," she has written, "the novel read as an Orientalist piece." As an "Orientalist" novel, it would represent a primarily European point of view regarding Azerbaijan. Mandaville's assessment of Ali and Nino also favors Nussimbaum’s authorship. Referring to the fact that Nussimbaum was of the Azerbaijani Jewish minority while Chamanzaminli was part of the Muslim majority, Mandaville writes that "the most interesting thing about the novel is the intense love/hate super-nostalgic relationship expressed for the region – exactly the kind of thing a person who was a (minority) child in an area they are now exiled from would write."