The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life

The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life

Tom Reiss

Language: English

Pages: 496

ISBN: 0812972767

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.


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correspondence, the few letters Lev wrote to Elfriede made it seem almost certain that Kurban Said was a cover for him so that he could continue to receive royalties from his work. Dr. Barazon had maintained that Elfriede would not have needed to provide an Aryan cover for the real author of Ali and Nino, because the book contract was signed in April 1937, almost a full year before the Nazi Anschluss of Austria. But in fact Jewish authors already had plenty of reasons to disguise their identity.

who occupies his amusing anecdote had been a famous writer only a decade before. They had been successful contemporaries in the 1930s, yet Steinbeck had survived to continue writing both great books and fluff like this, while Lev/Essad had fallen into an abyss. To all but a handful of devoted followers—and the secret-police forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy—in the last years of his life, he had become simply “the Muslim” of Positano. When I told Romolo Ercolino what Rispoli had said,

mafioso and a dogmatic student radical, with a beard and sideburns and a passion for Esperanto, which he was convinced would be the language of the future. But I discovered at least one possible connection. In a short article, Lev once referred to his mother and Stalin in much the same terms he would use writing to Pima twenty years later: “My mother, along with Krasin, who at the time directed the electricity plants in Baku, financed Stalin’s illicit communist press with her diamonds.” I had

veiled”: Ibid., II, 8B. women were “like beautiful pictures”: Ibid., II, 8B–9A. Lev watched the blond couples kissing: Ibid., II, 9B–11A. “I was a strange creature”: Ibid., II, 9A. “Chaotic visions tormented me”: Ibid., II, 10B. “She resisted in jest and with a smile”: Ibid., II, 11A. “the horror of . . . craving eyes”: Ibid., II, 12A. “everything changed completely”: Ibid., II, 11, 14A. “I saw now what was more”: Ibid., II, 15B. CHAPTER 8: The Berlin Wall postwar hopelessness:

as it turned out, the Russian Empire suddenly expired of its own illness in 1917, leaving the Ottoman “sick man” to linger on for a while.) The Ottomans pointed out that the occupation of Constantinople by British, French, and Italian troops was a violation of the armistice they had signed, but to no avail. Lord Curzon, the British secretary of war and former viceroy of India, favored making Constantinople an international city. He led a campaign to strip the Hagia Sofia of its Koranic

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