Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2004 (12.3)

How to Collect

Kurban Said's Novel "Ali and Nino"
by Betty Blair

Other articles related to Ali and Nino:
1 "Ali and Nino" Covers: Novel is Published in 30 Languages ­ Blair (AI 12.3)
2 Review: Inside the Soul of a Caucasian ­ Elin Suleymanov (AI 12.2)
3 Editorial: The World of "Ali and Nino" ­ It's Our World too! ­ Betty Blair (AI 12.2)
4 Baku City Tour: "Ali and Nino" Walking Tour - Fuad Akhundov and Betty Blair (AI 12.2)
5 Photo Essay: Then & Now: Baku 100 Years Ago at the Peak of Oil Baron Period - (AI 12.2)
6 Letter to Editor: Copyright - Leela Ehrenfels (AI 12.4)
7 Letter: "Ali & Nino" Rediscovered - Ismail Kafescioglu (AI 10.3)

In the summer issue of Azerbaijan International (AI 12.2) when we published the Ali & Nino Walking Tour, little did we realize that Kurban Said's [Gurban Sayid] novel, "Ali and Nino", had been published in at least 28 languages. Already some bookshops are charging exorbitant prices for rare editions. For example, Julian Books in New York City is asking $595 for the first 1970 American edition by Random House; Second Story Books in Rockville, Maryland, sells the same book for $350.

Extensive research on the Web turned up editions in 28 languages: Arabic, Azeri, Bengali, Catalan, Cantonese, Czech, Dutch, English (Braille, Talking Books for the Blind and Dyslexic, and Large Print), Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

The novel, "Ali and Nino" has a fascinating history. It was first published in 1937 in Vienna in the German language by E. P. Tal Publishing Company. The author used a penname - Kurban Said [Gurban Sayid in Azeri]. One variation to this title was the 1944 Italian edition, which was called "Ali Khan". The author was identified as M. [Mohammad] Essad Bey.

Overlook Books, which is responsible for the numerous publications worldwide, alleges that Kurban Said [Gurban Sayid] is an alias for Essad Bey which is an alias for Leo Nussimbaum who fled Baku in 1920 when the Bolsheviks took control. Many Azerbaijanis are still not convinced about the Leo Nussembaum link. The 2004 Azerbaijani edition credits Yusif Vasir Chamanzaminli as author [Editor: 2006. This idea has significant merit].

After the first German language edition came out in 1937, editions appeared the following year in Swedish and Polish. In 1939, a Czech version followed. Then Italian, in 1943. War broke out and the book seems to have been forgotten until 1970 when Random House brought out the first American edition - an English translation from German by Jenia Graman. An enormous surge of interest followed. In 1972, Life Magazine declared that if anyone could knock Erich Segal's "Love Story" off the Best-Sellers List, it would be Kurban's "Ali and Nino". Translations began appearing in French, Dutch, Norwegian, Turkish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Arabic.

In 1971-1972, a serialized radio version in Azeri was broadcast by Radio Liberty under the direction of Mark Slonim. Understandably this first Azeri version appeared outside of the Soviet Union, as the book was sympathetic to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Oil Barons whom the Bolsheviks had overthrown.

The first serialized Azeri print version appeared in 1990 in the literature journal, "Azerbaijan", which at that time was edited by the late novelist, Yusif Samadoghlu. It came out in three volumes that year amidst photos of the Black January massacre by Soviet troops in Baku.

Curiously, the editions produced during the 1970s often list the 1937 copyright with Lucy Tal. However, starting in 1999 when Overlook Press (U.S.) gained the rights to publish the novel, all editions, whether in the U.S. or international, started listing Leela Ehrenfels with the 1937 copyright. Leela is the niece of Baroness Elfriede Ehrenfels von Bodmershof, in whose name the pseudonym Kurban Said [Gurban Sayid] was registered.

In 1999, an enormous surge of interest took place and within a few years translations appeared for the first time in Serbian, Indonesian, Georgian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Greek and Portuguese.

Collector's Item
No doubt now that it's known that "Ali and Nino" boasts editions in at least 28 languages, it will become a much sought-after collector's item. With the advent of bookstores on the Internet, it is quite possible to collect many editions from all over the world in a relatively short time and relatively inexpensively. We've gathered much of the basic information here to help you get started. We recommend using a Search Engine such as Google. Start by typing in the author's name, Kurban Said [Gurban Sayid], not the title of the book, "Ali and Nino", because the word "and" will vary from language to language ( a, and, da, dan, e, en, és, et, i, ile, va, ja, kai, och, og, und, ve, wa, y). Also, some languages alter Nino's name (Ninu in Persian and Nina in Italian).

Be aware that there is a lot of incomplete information and errors on the Web. If you think that you've found the treasure you're looking for, e-mail the book-seller for confirmation before handing over your money.

We found and to be extremely helpful, especially for tracking down the numerous English editions (at least 32) as well as German (at least 27). In September 2004, Abebooks listed 272 entries for Kurban Said [Gurban Sayid] and Bookfinder showed 161 entries. (Note that "Girl from the Golden Horn"also was published under the name of Kurban Said.

If you have a choice of purchasing an edition of the same quality from two separate bookstores, be sure to factor in shipping costs. They can vary considerably from country to country, and even from state to state. We found British booksellers to be more expensive than German. In the U.S., you may want to consider buying from out of state so that you don't have to pay sales tax. Sometimes a book that seems more expensive is really cheaper after shipping costs are added in.

Note that you can't always rely on ISBN numbers. Prior to the 1970s, ISBN numbers were not issued at all and even today sometimes the same number has been used in multiple editions. Sometimes related companies use the same numbers. On occasion, both soft and hard editions have the same ones. Some books don't include them at all (Hebrew 2001).

Building a collection of "Ali & Nino" books can take you on a fascinating journey all over the world. By the way, if you're really keen to own those first U.S. editions, search the Web carefully, you don't have to fork over $595, you can still get them for less than $20.

Azerbaijan International (12.3) Autumn 2004.
© Azerbaijan International 2004. All rights reserved.

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