You want Orient?

Dan Jacobson

  • The Orientalist: In Search of a Man Caught between East and West by Tom Reiss
    Chatto, 433 pp, £17.99, July 2005, ISBN 0 7011 7885 X

Lev or Leo Nussimbaum (aka Essad Bey, aka Kurban Said) was born in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in 1905. As a young man he claimed to be the son of an immensely wealthy Persian-Turkic prince. In his first published book, Blood and Oil in the Orient, Nussimbaum wrote that his supposed father had the facial expression, imperturbable, weary and yet eager for activity, of an Oriental who has transferred the old traditions of command to the social life of a young oil city’. About his mother he said very little, other than that she was the daughter of an ancient and aristocratic Russian family, who in some obscure manner had sacrificed her life for the Communist cause during the last decade of the tsarist empire.

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