Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Strange and Dangerous Life

I'm writing a review of The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, in which Tom Reiss documents the life of Lev Nussimbaum. Under the names Kurban Said and Essad Bey, Lev published 35 articles, 14 nonfiction books, and two novels between the ages of 21 and 33. The first novel, Ali and Nino, I've already written about. I'm currently reading his second, The Girl from the Golden Horn. If it's possible, this book is even better than Ali and Nino.

His most productive period came between 1929 and 1933 (24-28 years old), when he published 22 articles and nine books. Wow!

Here's the first paragraph so far:

Lev Nussimbaum’s life was pure Hollywood. It should be made into a film that traces the birth of the frail, sheltered dreamer in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1905; the Bolshevik mother’s early death; the father’s loss of his oil fortune after the October Revolution; the flight to Berlin via Iran and Istanbul; the son’s café rebirth as Essad Bey, author of 14 nonfiction books of history, biography, and political economy between the ages of 24 and 33; the marriage to an heir of a New York industrialist; the Bohemian lifestyle in Vienna; the ugly tabloid divorce; the looming Nazi advance driving Lev to Mussolini’s Italy; the contraction of a mysterious aging and wasting disease; the intervention of Ezra Pound and other fascist-leaning literati on his behalf; the publication of two masterfully written novels under the name Kurban Said; the miserable endgame on the Amalfi coast, tended by a shadowy Libyan double agent and arms smuggler; and finally Lev Nussimbaum’s death at the age of 35. Missing is a compelling screenplay, but Tom Reiss’s book has all the facts.


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Barbara Hampton said...

I can't wait to read it, John, your review and the book :) Ah, the end of the semester joys--books!

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Ted Swedenburg said...

hurry up and finish the review!


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