Contrary to what I might have said a few weeks ago, I finished Ali and Nino before the year’s end. Coincendentally, I started 2007 off with Samarkand that deals with 11th Century Persia but also briefly covers pre-World War I Iran, and ended the year with Ali and Nino that commences on the eve of World War I in Baku, Azerbaijan.
I used to have a friend who would also say after reading a book that it was great except for the last page, and actually, I would say the same thing for Ali and Nino. Regardless of the last page, it is a wonderful novel for anyone interested in Middle Eastern or European history. Azerbaijan is especially interesting as it falls on the fault line between Europe, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, and the novel does a great job of putting that threshold into prospective. It is also interesting is to see how much the world has changed since World War I and how much has not changed.
Finally, the author, Liv Nussmbaum (under the pen name Kurban Said), is a novel himself. Tom Reiss has recently published a biography about Nussmbaum, entitled The Orientalist – Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life.