My 2017 in Books – ‘Ali and Nino’

Ali and Nino – Kurban Said

First of all, the author of this book is somewhat mysterious. ‘Kurban Said’ was a pen name. The book was originally published in Vienna in 1937. The true identity of Kurban Said is still unknown to this day and several people have been linked to the pseudonym. This in itself intrigued me about the novel

This novel is set in Baku, Azerbaijan just before World War I began. This town is on the shores of the Caspian sea and sits in the middle of the East and the West. Ali Khan Shirvanshir has grown up in Baku while it was under the rule of the Russians. He is a Muslim and from an aristocratic and military family. Ever since his childhood he has been in love with Nino. Nino Kipiani who is a Christian Georgian girl, is also in love with Ali.

This novel was so much more than a love story between a Muslim boy and a Christian girl. Although star-crossed lovers, there is much more to the story. Ali has grown up and always disliked the European ways creeping into his country. On the other hand Nino welcomes it and embraces it.

War threatens their hometown and they find themselves going to Ali’s uncle in Persia, where Nino finds it unbearable to live; as well as a remote village in the mountains.

Although their love for each other is unquestionable, Ali and Nino continuously find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Ali, who loves Asia and hates Europe; Nino who is the opposite. They soon realise that they can’t live somewhere without one of them being in misery and a heartbreaking realisation it is.

Throughout this novel there was a lot of build up and details about the goings on of the war and all of the implications of this. All of this detail contributed to the understanding of Ali and Nino and the dynamics of their relationship. The ending of this book was perfect for the path that had been laid and all of the events that took place made the ending make sense. I don’t want to give anything away but I have to say I thought the ending was appropriate and I’m usually disappointed by the endings of books!

What struck me is that, although this book was written in 1937, so many of it’s themes and issues are still so relevant today.

8/10

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