The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life

By Tom Reiss

An exhilarating page-turner of epic proportions, Tom Reiss’s panoramic bestseller tells the genuine tale of a Jew who reworked himself right into a Muslim prince in Nazi Germany. Lev Nussimbaum escaped the Russian Revolution in a camel caravan and, as “Essad Bey,” turned a celebrated writer with the iconic novel Ali and Nino in addition to an adventurer, a real-life Indiana Jones with a deadly mystery. Reiss pursued Lev’s tale throughout ten international locations and located himself stuck up in encounters as dramatic and surreal–and occasionally as heartbreaking–as his subject’s life.


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The preferable cinema in all Berlin was once the UFA Palace am Zoo. it may well accommodate thousand consumers and a seventy-piece symphony orchestra to accompany the movies. even though conceived to broadcast struggle propaganda, after all UFA provided get away from the chaos the battle had introduced. The large again plenty in Babelsberg, a Berlin suburb, rivaled Hollywood in generating cinematic spectacles. Ernst Lubitsch, the son of a Polish Jewish tailor, turned the 1st of an extended line of German and Austrian administrators to hone their talents in Weimar-era Berlin sooner than occurring to Hollywood. additionally they produced complicated reflections of the tense occasions via neo-expressionist movies like Robert Wiene’s cupboard of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis—though Lev’s contemporaries much more likely could have rushed to work out grand ancient epics like Ernst Lubitsch’s Madame Du Barry, Anne Boleyn, and The Loves of Pharoah. *41 “I had in the past put aside the behavior of seeing in each Berlin mosque a Muhammadan apartment of worship,” wrote the Austrian novelist Joseph Roth for a German newspaper, in a column concerning the UFA Palaces and the Berlin movie scene. “I knew that the mosques listed below are motion picture theaters, and the Orient is a film. ” yet no longer all Berlin mosques have been motion picture theaters. at some point soon in this time, Lev set aside his angst approximately now not maintaining together with his pals and went off looking for the true factor. He hadn’t forgotten the Orient he had glimpsed in Constantinople, with its magnificent prior. He had skilled wilderness wanderings and weird tribes. yet what now set him except any teenage dreamer who went to work out the adventures of Sinbad or Valentino on the cinema, other than after all that he couldn’t come up with the money for the cost of admission? And but the trendy global occasionally did supply desires round each nook, for after surviving the wretched 12 months of 1922, that 12 months of assassinations, Lev ultimately chanced on his Orient in Berlin—and better of all, it used to be enjoying at no cost. “In Berlin I realized that every little thing that needed to do with camels, deserts, Arabs, dilapidated archways and the folk who had as soon as erected them is taught on the collage, on the Seminar for Oriental Languages. ” This discovery stuffed him with wish and ambition. He all of sudden knew what to do together with his time, for the gates of this “mosque” have been flung open to him, and it was once choked with what precise Muslims valued greater than any picture: phrases. there has been no maintaining me again. I went to the rector, I went to the dean, I went to the director of the institute, begged for them to permit me examine there and that i used to be profitable. . . . I tore my method into the self-discipline like a starved puppy who’d all of sudden come on a section of meat. On October 17, 1922, Lev enrolled as a pupil in sessions in Turkish and Arabic within the Seminar for Oriental Languages on the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität. On his program, he wrote his identify as “Essad Bey Nousimbaoum,” from Georgia. This was once the 1st recorded authentic use of his new name—which was once primarily “Mr. Leo Nussimbaum” transposed into Turkish.

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