The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life
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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.
was convinced that I was meeting the future dictator of Germany. In something less than fifty seconds I was quite sure that I was not.” Nazism was a movement of the youth, and by the mid-1920s, the youth did not read books like The Magic Mountain or Berlin Alexanderplatz, which we associate with the Weimar period. They were far more likely to read bestsellers like Hans Grimm’s deeply racist Volk ohne Raum (People Without Space), the classic argument for the Nazi invasion of Poland and one of
But he didn’t trust this particular one. He hired a private detective to follow his new son-in-law around. Lev didn’t like his in-laws any better than they liked him. “The general consul had only three topics of conversation—shoes, money and pleasure,” he wrote disdainfully. Besides this, he only had a passion for spending as much money as possible, in as ostentatious a way as possible. His wife also had only three conversation topics—shoes, money and clothing. Besides this, she also had a
Mussolini, ironically, would be viciously anti-Semitic, while Viereck’s support for Hitler would somehow attempt to stay perversely “pro-Jewish”; both would be denounced as traitors and imprisoned by the American government for their fascist sympathies, and both would try to help Essad Bey survive in fascist Europe during his final desperate days. But unlike Pound, a deep and native anti-Semite, Viereck prided himself on being mistaken for a Jew! “The quickness of the Jew, the restlessness of his
was a Jew.” Why did he think the Muslim was a Jew? “I don’t know—he kept a Koran by his bed, and everyone called him the Muslim. His friend seemed like a Muslim Fascist. I just felt he was more like a Jew.” The old ex-servant cackled and ordered another Coke. “But I would have kept working for the Muslim, if he hadn’t died. He was not rich and fine, but he always acted like a gentleman.” Romolo Ercolino, the watchman’s son, pointed up past the cliff houses to a spot at the highest edge of
wine, danced, laughed and sang, were pliant and hard like a steel spring,” wrote Lev in Ali and Nino. “Was this the gate to Europe? No, of course not. This was part of us, and yet so very different from the rest of us. A gate but leading where?” Georgia is the third-oldest Christian country in the world, and unlike the region’s other Christian kingdom, Armenia, it usually has had good relations with its Muslim neighbors. The Georgians converted to the Cross in the fourth century, a hundred years