Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Elusive Life

As a self-employed homeschooling Mom, I have the luxury of "reinventing myself" from time to time, as I have interests leading me one way and another in my work, my hobbies, and my studies. I've been learning astronomy from excellent lectures by Alex Filippenko for The Teaching Company, I recently finished my first needlepoint project in a few decades, and I'm doing more consulting and curriculum development for schools. But I have nothing on Lev (Leo) Nussimbaum.

As his life is discovered through his aliases--Essad Bey and Kurban Said--the mysterious man trapped between revolutions emerges in Tom Reiss's The Orientalist. Born into a far-east European Jewish family that had dealings with Alfred Nobel and Joseph Stalin both, the millionaire boy grew up considering himself different from others and eventually became a cosmopolitan Muslim. As the Soviets took over his home town of Baku, Lev and his father Abraham fled with their fortunes sewn into their clothes and eventually settled in Germany, where Lev established himself as a talented biographer of many important people and himself married a millionaire girl and got into the gossip columns in America. As the Nazi regime came to power he had to flee Germany and, abandoned by his wife, finally went into hiding in coastal Italy, where he died in his mid-30s of a painful disease.

All along the way Nussimbaum played with his identity, dressing up like a sheik and calling himself by different names and giving different accounts of his background. Because he could not be published in Germany during World War II an eccentric baroness friend took on his alias Kurban Said so that what has become his most famous book could be published: Ali and Nino, a love story.

That book is my next to pick up.

1 comment:

Renee said...

I just left you an award on my blog. Come pick it up! (There is no obligation to reciprocate, but I wanted you to how much I appreciate you!)