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See note on methodology

There is no competition here. Azerbaijan is at the edge of Europe, and there is one great (and fairly short) novel set there (with excusions to Dagestan and Iran) before, during and after the first world war, chronicling the love of an Azeri boy for a Georgian girl, and how it all concludes in British betrayal. (Be honest, did you know that the British had betrayed the first democratic and secular republic in the Muslim world back in 1919? You do now.) First published in German in 1937, by an author whose identity seems peculiarly elusive (though I am convinced by the argument that he was a Jewish convert to Islam, who wrote mainly in Berlin but died in Italy), it is:

Ali and Nino / Ali und Nino by "Kurban Said" (likely Lev Nussimbaum)

Only two other books really place here, and neither is wholly satisfactory on the geographical criterion. One is the biography of that Jewish convert to Islam, whose mother took tea with the young Stalin and whose grave became the punchline of a comic story by John Steinbeck, who probably wrote the previous book - obviously a major piece of detective work in itself, but at the same time largely set outside Azerbaijan as it chronicles the geographical (and other) wanderings of its subject and author. It's also a jolly good read, and I recommend it. It is:

The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss

The other book that places well, with far more owners than the first two on both LT and GR, but with the crucial disadvantage that it is mostly set in tenth century "Khazaria", which I believe does not overlap very much with Azerbaijan, though it's fairly clear that the opening chapters are indeed set in what is generally recognised as Azerbaijani territory today. First published in 2007, it is:

Gentlemen of the Road, by Michael Chabon


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 21st, 2015 06:38 pm (UTC)
What countries are you exploring next?
Feb. 21st, 2015 07:01 pm (UTC)
I'm doing them in descending order of population. So the next six will be Belarus, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Serbia and Denmark. Some of these are more obvious than others - a couple of them were books that I knew, but really surprised me!
C.a. McLean
Feb. 21st, 2015 07:16 pm (UTC)
I read Ali and Nino and The Orientalist - loved the novel and was intrigued and convinced by the Orientalist that Kurban Said was Lev Nussbaum and was the author of the novel UNTIL I talked to Christopher Hampton, the director and script writer. He would like to make Ali & Nino into a film, and had scouted out locations in Georgia during the time when he was serving on the jury of one of the Georgian International Film Festivals. He does not think Lev Nussbaum/Kurban Said was the author of the novel - he leans toward authorship by an Azeri. Hampton got more interest and support promised from the Azeris for filming so he will probably do it in that country once he gets a thorny rights issue straightened out. I will tell you more next time I see you, if you are interested.

Feb. 21st, 2015 07:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Azerbaijan
Thanks! I know that the Azeris have a preferred candidate, and perhaps the Nussimbaum story is too good to be true...

It's a book that is crying out to be filmed, preferably as close to the original locations as possible!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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