Essad Beys Heftromane – Eine überraschende Entdeckung

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Essad Beys Heftromane

Manuela und Liebe und Erdöl

Eine überraschende Entdeckung1

von Hans-Jürgen Maurer

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Als 1934 in dem polnischen Verlag Republika in Łodz die beiden Heftromane von Essad Bey erschienen, hatte dieser bereits eine beachtliche Zahl an Publikationen vorzuweisen. Zwischen 1926, (d.h. etwa ab seinem 21. Lebensjahr) und 1933 verfasste Essad Bey über 160 Beiträge für Willy Haas’ renommierte Literaturzeitschrift Die literarische Welt. Sein erstes eigenes Buch erschien im Winter 1929/1930, d.h. in seinem 24. Lebensjahr: die satirische Quasi-Autobiografie Öl und Blut im Orient, in der er von seiner Kindheit in Baku und seiner abenteuerlichen Flucht vor den Bolschewiken erzählt. Bis zum Erscheinen der beiden Heftromane 1934 folgten acht weitere Bücher: unter anderem die Biografien Stalin und Mohammed, zwei Bücher über den Kaukasus, drei über Russland und eines über Erdöl, Flüssiges Gold. Das positioniert die beiden Heftromane ungefähr auf halber Strecke zwischen Öl und Blut im Orient und dem zeitlosen Meisterwerk Ali und Nino, das 1937 unter dem Pseudonym Kurban Said veröffentlicht wurde.

Über Zeitpunkt und Umstände der Wiederentdeckung von Manuela und Liebe und Erdöl ist nichts bekannt. Es kann aber vermutet werden, dass Professor Gerhard Höpp († 2003) vom Berliner Zentrum Moderner Orient, der Essad Bey bereits seit den frühen 1990er-Jahren auf der Spur war, die Romane im Rahmen einer weltweiten Routinesuche in Bibliothekskatalogen entdeckte. Bis dahin war von der Existenz der beiden Romane nichts bekannt. Bis heute ist auch kein einziger Hinweis auf die Manuskripte, Verhandlungen oder Korrespondenz etc. aufgetaucht – außer möglicherweise ein Nebensatz in der Autobiografie von Karl Frucht2, dem Geschäftspartner von Hertha Pauli: „Wir hatten einige seiner abenteuerlichen Kurzgeschichten mit Erfolg vertrieben“. Da bislang nichts von weiteren Abenteuergeschichten Essad Beys bekannt ist, kann vermutet werden, dass Frucht von den beiden Heftromanen sprach.

Diese beiden einfach strukturierten und erzählten Geschichten wollen sich in Anbetracht von Essad Beys längst bewiesener literarischer Kunstfertigkeit nicht unbedingt nahtlos in sein beeindruckendes Gesamtwerk einfügen – jedenfalls nicht auf den ersten Blick.

Und dennoch sind diese beiden »Groschenhefte« unzweifelhaft echte »Essad Beys«. Denn ein Essad-Bey-Buch ist ein Essad-Bey-Buch, weil darin die großen Lebensthemen des Autors selbst vorkommen: Erdöl, Hochfinanz, Kaukasus, Revolution, Flucht, Bolschewismus. Zudem trägt die Handlung von Liebe und Erdöl autobiografische Züge – jene Erfahrungen, die er selbst als Flüchtender machen musste. Darüber hinaus lässt Essad Bey Personen der Zeitgeschichte auftreten und beschreibt deren Handlungen, die auch schon Thema in seinen Werken Das weiße Russland (1932) und Flüssiges Gold (1933) waren. Diese erleben unter verändertem Namen ihre dramatisierten Geschichten in leicht abgewandelten Zusammenhängen.

In Manuela greift Essad Bey auf eine Räubergeschichte zurück, die er bereits 1930 in Zwölf Geheimnisse im Kaukasus erzählt hatte – nur, dass er sie jetzt in den Dienst der portugiesischen Revolution stellt. Weiterhin verarbeitet Essad Bey in Manuela zwei große Finanzskandale von 1925 und 1929/30, die er geschickt miteinander kombiniert.

Allein diese Bezüge zu weltgeschichtlichen Ereignissen, in die Essad Bey seine Protagonisten stellt, heben die beiden Geschichten über gewöhnliche Heftromane hinaus. Dies zu betonen ist wichtig, denn sie wurden kritisiert, »simpel und primitiv« zu sein, und dass ihre Handlung »billig und sensationalistisch« sei, und dass sich seine Helden »in der dunklen Welt von Intrige, Verführung, Erpressung und Rache bewegen, um zu Geld und Macht zu gelangen«.3

Vergessen wir nicht, was diese beiden Romane sind: Groschenhefte, die für jene wöchentliche Serie in Polen verfasst wurden – und dass sie dennoch wahre Begebenheiten nachzeichnen.

Betrachten wir im Folgenden einige Handlungsdetails.

 

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Manuela

Hintergrund für die Romanhandlung ist Portugal vor dem Militärputsch von 1926, das heißt, in einer Zeit häufig wechselnder Regierungen und politischer Instabilität. Ein paar Revolutionäre machen sich daran, die korrupte Regierung zu stürzen. Nach ihrem waghalsigen Plan haben sie vor, große Mengen legal gedruckter Banknoten in Umlauf zu bringen und so eine Inflation auszulösen, die die Bevölkerung gegen die Regierung aufwiegeln soll. Die Heldin des Romans, eine hübsche junge Frau namens Manuela Letão, unterstützt die Revolutionäre, um ihren Vater, einen ehemaligen General, zu rächen. Mit geschickten, spannend und amüsant beschriebenen Schachzügen gelingt es den Revolutionären tatsächlich, die Londoner Banknotendruckerei davon zu überzeugen, sie seien offizielle portugiesische Gesandte und damit befugt, Banknoten zu ordern. Diese Banknoten werden in aberwitziger (wenn auch nicht sehr glaubwürdiger) Weise in Umlauf gebracht. Zum Beispiel kauft Manuela in Paris literweise teuerstes Parfum ein.

In der Tat führt das in Umlauf bringen der vielen Banknoten den Verfall der portugiesischen Währung und schließlich den Sturz der Regierung herbei.

In dieser Geschichte hat Essad Bey folgende historische Begebenheiten verarbeitet.

Den Banknoten-Skandal, bei dem durch riesige Mengen echten Geldes Portugals Wirtschaft kollabierte, hat es im Jahr 1925 wirklich gegeben. Wie den Protagonisten im Roman, gelingt es dem Privatmann Alves dos Reis (1898–1955), die britische Banknotendruckerei Waterlow & Sons Ltd., bei der die portugiesische Regierung bereits seit vielen Jahren Kunde war, davon zu überzeugen, er sei der offizielle Repräsentant derselben. Er bestellt 200.000 Scheine à 500 Escudos (siehe Abb.). Als diese legal gedruckten Banknoten in Umlauf gebracht wurden, hatte dies eine katastrophale Wirkung auf die portugiesische Wirtschaft, von der sie sich nur schwer erholte. Vor allem der Ansehensverlust von Regierung und Währung war immens.

Im Falle von Alves dos Reis wurde die Druckerei Waterlow & Sons Ltd. zu Entschädigungszahlungen gegenüber Portugal verurteilt und musste infolgedessen Konkurs anmelden. In Manuela jedoch gibt es ob der »edlen« Motive der Helden ein Happy End. Die angeklagte englische Druckerei wird freigesprochen und die Verantwortung Portugal zugeschoben.

Im Gegensatz zu den Motiven der Romanhelden waren die von Alves dos Reis wahrscheinlich persönliche Bereicherung und Machtstreben.4 Offensichtlich hat dos Reis die Auswirkung seines Plans auf die portugiesische Wirtschaft nicht voraussehen können. Doch Essad Beys Romanhelden wissen es besser – kein Wunder, denn Manuela wurde neun Jahre nach dem wirklichen Skandal verfasst. Für die Romanhelden ist es einfach, den Effekt auf Portugals Wirtschaft selbstlos in den Dienst der Revolution zu stellen.

Dieses »gute« Motiv entlehnte Essad Bey einem anderen Geldfälscher-Skandal, der ab 1927 für Schlagzeilen sorgte, der so genannten Tscherwonzen-Affaire.

Das Wort »Tscherwonzen« ist die eingedeutschte Bezeichnung für die sowjetische Währung Tschervonets, die seit dem Zarenreich und bis 1947 in Umlauf war. Revolutionäre Georgier stellten 1927 in Deutschland eine große Menge Tscherwonzen-Blüten her, um diese im sowjetisch verwalteten Kaukasus in Umlauf zu bringen. Ihre Hoffnung war es, dadurch die Sowjetwirtschaft zu untergraben. Es ist denkbar, dass die Revolutionäre durch den dos-Reis-Skandal auf diese Idee gekommen sind. Doch ihr Plan misslang. Es kamen nur relativ wenige Scheine in Umlauf. Der Großteil wurde von der Polizei in einem Frankfurter Lagerhaus entdeckt, bevor sie verschickt werden konnten. Die Fälscher wurden in Deutschland vor Gericht gestellt. Nach dem ersten Einstellen des Prozesses aufgrund der neu erlassenen „Reichsamnestie“ für politische Straftäter im Jahr 1928, gab es aufgrund heftiger Proteste der Sowjetunion 1930 eine Wiederaufnahme und ein Berufungsverfahren, das den Angeklagten Gefängnisstrafen von zwei Jahren bzw. zwei Jahren und 10 Monaten einbrachten.5

Essad Bey hatte an den großen Tscherwonzenfälscher-Prozessen im Januar und Februar 1930 in Berlin-Moabit als Beobachter teilgenommen.6

Wie bereits erwähnt, verlegte Essad Bey für den Roman Manuela eine kaukasische Räubergeschichte nach Portugal, die er bereits 1930 in Zwölf Geheimnisse im Kaukasus6 erzählt hat: Unter einem Vorwand werden alle Polizisten und Soldaten aus der dagestanischen Stadt Kislar gelockt. Derweil raubt eine Räuberbande die Stadt aus, inklusive aller Privathäuser, Banken und dem Postamt. Um eine Verfolgung so lange wie möglich hinauszuzögern, werden alle Einwohner der Stadt splitternackt zurückgelassen. Dieser Raubzug soll von einem gewissen Kamo organisiert worden sein, einem Mitstreiter Stalins, der mit der Beute den in Zürich lebenden Lenin unterstützte.

Diese Episode aus Zwölf Geheimnisse im Kaukasus ist, nebenbei bemerkt, ein Musterbeispiel für Ralf Marschallecks Feststellung: »[Essad Bey] … schafft es immer wieder, Geschichte aus nüchternen Fakten in leidenschaftliches Menschenwerk zurückzuverwandeln, wodurch sie erst verständlich wird – ein sehr sympathisches Verfahren, modern geblieben und in der heutigen Sachbuch-Literatur als ›facts & fiction‹ geläufig …«.7

 

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Liebe und Erdöl

Die georgische Prinzessin Tamara landet auf ihrer Flucht vor den Bolschewiken, die sie über Konstantinopel und Marseille führt, auf den Straßen von Paris. Der Ohnmacht nahe wird sie in letzter Sekunde von dem schönen Vano aufgefangen, der sich als ihr Landsmann herausstellt. Vano bringt Tamara zu dem alten und geheimnisvollen Armenier Petrossian, der wirtschaftliche Weltmacht besitzt. Petrossian macht Prinzessin Tamara zu einem Instrument des Großkapitals gegen die Bolschewiken, indem er sie mit dem englischen Erdöl-Tycoon Sir Richard King verkuppelt. Sir Richard soll durch seine Liebe zu Tamara motiviert werden, für die Befreiung ihrer kaukasischen Heimat (und damit der dortigen Ölquellen) von den Bolschewiken zu kämpfen.

Hier hat Essad Bey folgende autobiografischen Details sowie Personen und Begebenheiten aus der Weltgeschichte verarbeitet:

Die Hauptperson des Romans, die georgische Prinzessin Tamara Alaschidse, benannte Essad Bey sicherlich nicht nur nach der legendären georgischen Königin (1160–1230), sondern wohl auch nach seiner Lieblingstante Tamara, der jüngeren Schwester seiner Mutter Berta, mit der ihn, bedingt durch den geringen Altersunterschied von zwölf Jahren, ein eher geschwisterliches Verhältnis verband.

Wie Prinzessin Tamara fuhr auch Essad Bey unter denselben politischen Umständen von Batumi nach Konstantinopel – wenn auch nicht einsam auf einem kleinen Segelboot, sondern zusammen mit seinem Vater, dem Bakuer Ölindustriellen Abraham Nussimbaum. Sie legten die Strecke in der ersten Klasse eines Dampfers zurück, auf dem »der Kellner meldet, dass nach Verlassen der georgischen Gewässer alle Preise in Gold zu verstehen sind.«8

Wie für Tamara bedeutete auch für Essad Bey, damals noch Lev Nussimbaum, Konstantinopel ein mehrwöchiger Aufenthalt. Im Gegensatz zu seiner Romanfigur wohnte er im ersten internationalen Luxushotel Konstantinopels, dem Pera Palas, das 1892 für die Passagiere des neuen Orient-Express erbaut worden war. Prinzessin Tamara verkaufte dagegen im Roman Streichhölzer vor den Türen desselben Luxushotels.

In einem einzigen Satz deutet Essad Bey an, was Konstantinopel für Tamara bedeutete – und erzählt dabei von sich selbst: »Für sie war Konstantinopel ein Traum.« In seinem letzten Manuskript beschreibt Essad Bey (bzw. in dem Falle „Kurban Said“) eindringlich, was die Stadt für ihn selbst bedeutet hat: »Ich kann mir kaum noch die Gefühle jenes fremden Knaben vorstellen, der beinahe taumelnd vor Entzücken durch die Gassen der Kalifenstadt schritt und die Moscheen besuchte.«9

Für den Schriftsteller, wie für seine Romanfigur war Konstantinopel nur ein Zwischenstopp auf dem Weg nach Paris, der »Hauptstadt der Welt«. Dort wohnte Essad Bey bei seinen reichen Verwandten mütterlicherseits „in einem großen Haus an den Champs Elysées“10 – dem Hotel Windsor11. In seinem letzten Manuskript beschrieb Essad Bey seine Streifzüge durch die Stadt und die in der Zeit gewonnenen Einblicke in das Leben der russischen Emigranten. Spätestens aus dieser Zeit (Lev war ca. 15 Jahre alt) müssen auch seine Einblicke in die Hochfinanz rund um das Erdöl stammen. Genau wie andere Ölquellenbesitzer konnte Abraham Nussimbaum nämlich noch die »toten Seelen«, d.h. die Besitzrechte an den heimischen Ölquellen, an Shell, Standard Oil und andere westliche Investoren verkaufen. Dies funktionierte, weil fast die gesamte westliche Welt daran glaubte, dass die Bolschewiken binnen eines Jahres wieder verschwunden wären. (Es führte dazu, dass keiner der exilierten Ölmillionäre daran dachte, sich finanziell einzuschränken, und manch einer arbeitete später als Taxifahrer.) Durch den Verkauf der „toten Seelen“ konnte Nussimbaum für sich und seinen Sohn noch eine ganze Weile den gewohnten Lebensstil aufrechterhalten.12

1921 ließen sich Vater und Sohn Nussimbaum in Berlin nieder. Dort ging ihnen bald das Geld aus und sie lernten nicht nur den Hunger, sondern auch wütende, ihre Miete einfordernde Hausherren kennen. Das daraus entstandene tiefe Gefühl der Entwurzelung und Verzweiflung scheint durch, wenn Essad Bey in Liebe und Erdöl schreibt: »Man sagt, das Brot der Vertriebenen sei bitter. Das stimmt nicht. Das Brot der Vertriebenen ist weder bitter noch süß, denn das Exil hat den Vertriebenen gar kein Brot zu bieten.«13

Prinzessin Tamaras Schicksal erfährt durch die Hochzeit mit einem Erdöl-Industriellen eine mehr oder weniger glückliche Wendung. In Essad Beys Leben steht das Erdöl für Reichtum, Verlust und schließlich für das Überleben: Ab 1930, mit dem Erfolg seiner Autobiografie Öl und Blut im Orient, der in den folgenden acht Jahren noch mindestens fünfzehn weitere international erfolgreiche Bücher folgen sollten, wendete sich sein Schicksal wieder zum Guten. Noch vor den beiden Heftromanen erschien 1933 Flüssiges Gold – Ein Kampf um die Macht. Interessanterweise war es bis zum Ausbruch des Zweiten Weltkriegs 1939 eines seiner erfolgreichsten.14 Das Erdöl und Essad Bey blieben gewissermaßen einander treu. Wenn man sich die Veröffentlichungsjahre und die Motive von Flüssiges Gold und Liebe und Erdöl betrachtet, ist leicht zu erkennen, dass Essad Bey für seinen Heftroman auf das Erdöl-Buch zurückgegriffen hat.

Essad Beys Heimweh nach dem Kaukasus scheint durch in Prinzessin Tamaras Visionen von ihrer grünen georgischen Heimat (S. 16 u. 36). Es kann davon ausgegangen werden, dass Essad Bey bereits in seiner Kindheit Georgien gut kennengelernt hat.15 Sicher war er dem Land auch emotional verbunden, denn sein Vater, Abraham Nussimbaum, wurde 1873 in der georgischen Hauptstadt Tiflis geboren und hat dort im Oktober 1904 Levs Mutter Berta Slutzki geheiratet.

Doch nicht nur diese autobiografischen Details finden sich in Liebe und Erdöl, sondern auch Personen aus der Geschichte des Erdöls und ihre Machenschaften.

Essad Beys Romanfiguren Tamara Alaschidse, Sir Richard King und Petros Petrossian sind realen Figuren aus der Erdöl-Industrie nachempfunden. Tamaras Vorbild war Lydia Pawlowna, eine russisch-kaukasische Emigrantin (und wie die Romanfigur eine Generalstochter) und Ehefrau von Sir Henri Wilhelm August Deterding (1866–1933). Deterding war Vorbild für die Romanfigur Richard King. Er war der Mitbegründer und Hauptaktionär der Royal Dutch Shell und damals einer der reichsten Männer der Welt. Sechzig Prozent der kaukasischen Erdölvorkommen waren in seinem Besitz und wie in Essad Beys Roman lernte er seine Frau Lydia Pawlowna bei dem undurchsichtigen Finanzexperten Calouste Gulbenkian kennen, der die Vorlage für Petros Petrossian abgab.

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869–1955), geboren und aufgewachsen in der Türkei, war ein armenischstämmiger Finanzexperte, Ölforscher und Kunstsammler, der sich im Laufe seiner Karriere als unumgänglicher Verhandlungspartner in der Ölindustrie etabliert und einen sagenhaften Reichtum erworben hatte. Zwischen 1915 und 1942 lebte er – wie die Romanfigur Petrossian – in Paris in einem Haus am Etoile. Und wie im Roman zerstritt sich Gulbenkian mit Deterding über die Frage des Sowjet-Öls und entfesselte gegen Shell die von Essad Bey erzählte Börsenintrige.16

Die Ähnlichkeiten zwischen Romanfigur Petrossian und Vorbild Gulbenkian sind nur schwach. Essad Bey schreibt Petrossian Züge zu, die von Rockefeller bekannt waren, zum Beispiel das tägliche Lesen von Bibel und Börsennotierungen.17 Diesen Kniff mag Essad Bey angewendet haben, weil wahrscheinlich über Gulbenkian keine privaten Informationen bekannt waren.

In Liebe und Erdöl finden sich drei Sätze über Richard King, die weder erklärt werden, noch mit der Romanhandlung in Beziehung zu stehen scheinen:

»Richard King und die Falschmünzer« (Seite 34)

»Richard King war der einzige Mann auf der Welt, der es sich ohne negative Folgen erlauben konnte, seinen Namen in Verbindung mit Falschmünzern in Zeitungen zu lesen« (Seite 35)

»Richard dachte an die Falschmünzer, die man immer gleichzeitig mit seinem Namen erwähnte« (Seite 39)

Dies sind Anspielungen auf die Tscherwonzenfälscher-Prozesse, an denen Essad Bey als journalistischer Beobachter teilgenommen hatte. Während des Prozesses sagten die Hauptbeschuldigten Karumidse und Sadatieraschwili aus, Deterding habe die Vorbereitungen zum Geldfälschen finanziert. Deterding war einer der reichsten Menschen zu seiner Zeit und als glühender Anti-Bolschewist bekannt. Es wäre in seinem Interesse gewesen, die Sowjetregierung fallen zu sehen, die zwischen ihm und seinen kaukasischen Ölquellen stand. Deterding stritt jedoch alle Vorwürfe ab. Außer einigen Begegnungen mit den Fälschern konnte ihm nichts nachgewiesen werden.

Diese drei mit dem restlichen Text unverbundenen Sätze sind sicher durch Essad Beys schnelle Arbeitsweise entstanden und anscheinend auch dem damaligen polnischen Übersetzer entgangen.

Das reale Vorbild für King, Deterding, war in der Tat Holländer und wurde 1920 für seinen Beitrag zu den Englisch-Niederländischen Beziehungen ehrenhalber zum Ritter des Britischen Empire geschlagen. Den Hauptsitz der Gesellschaft verlegte er bewusst nach London, um im Konkurrenzkampf (vor allem mit Rockefellers Standard Oil) die Rückendeckung des britischen Militärs zu haben.18

Nebenbei sei noch bemerkt, dass Deterding ein Freund der Nationalsozialisten in Deutschland war (vielleicht, weil sie ebenfalls Gegner der Bolschewiken waren?) und der NSDAP viele Millionen aus seinem Privatvermögen spendete: allein 1937 angeblich 40 Millionen Reichsmark für die Winternothilfe. Er besaß auch ein Rittergut in Mecklenburg. Zu seiner Beerdigung 1939 sandte Hitler einen Prunk-Kranz.19

 

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Im Gesamtwerk von Essad Bey nehmen diese beiden Heftromane sicher eine Sonderstellung ein. Doch mit ihren historischen Bezügen, der charakteristischen Art der Personenzeichnung und der dichten, abenteuerlichen Handlung tragen sie eindeutig Essad Beys Handschrift. Das macht diese beiden kleinen »Zufallsfunde« nicht nur für Essad-Bey-Liebhaber zu einer lohnenden Entdeckung.

 

1          Dieser Aufsatz erschien zum ersten Mal in: Liebe und Erdöl und Manuela, Freiburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-929345-35-3. Für diese Online-Ausgabe wurde er überarbeitet und erweitert.

2          Frucht schrieb diese Erinnerungen über 50 Jahre später auf:  Karl Frucht, Verlustanzeige: Ein Überlebensbericht, Wien 1992, S. 113

3          Betty Blair in ihrer Publikation Azerbaijan International, Los Angeles 2011, Seiten 313, 331, 356

 4          Die Geschichte von Alves dos Reis ist Thema von: Thomas Gifford, Escudo, Bergisch Gladbach 2005, und Murray T. Bloom, Der Mann, der Portugal stahl, Wien 1967 und Reinbek 1973. Das deutsche Fernsehen dramatisierte 1970 das letztgenannte Werk für den Thriller Millionen nach Maß, in dem Curd Jürgens die Hauptrolle spielt. (DVD im Handel erhältlich.)

5          Michael Sayers und Albert Kahn: Die große Verschwörung – Darstellung des antikommunistischen Kampfes 1919–1945; Quelle: www.stalinwerke.de/verschw/verschw.pdf

6          In seinem Buch Das weiße Russland (Leipzig 1932 und 1991) widmet E.B. diesem Skandal das Kapitel »Die georgischen Falschmünzer«.

Der Schriftsteller Robert Neumann hat diesen Stoff in seinem Roman Die Macht, Berlin 1932 und München 1964, verarbeitet. Es ist überliefert, dass sich Essad Bey und Robert Neumann sich in Wien gekannt haben. Allerdings ist fraglich, welche Schlüsse aus dieser Tatsache allein gezogen werden können.

Artikel von 2012 auf spiegel.de: „Legendäre Falschgeld-Affäre – Der Schein des Anstoßes“,. Suchbegriff: „legendäre falschgeld-affäre“ oder: http://www.spiegel.de/einestages/legendaere-falschgeld-affaere-der-schein-des-anstosses-a-947488.html

7          Zitiert aus: Essad Bey, Öl und Blut im Orient, Freiburg 2008, Seite 10f.

8          Öl und Blut im Orient, Freiburg 2008, Seite 261

9          Kurban Said: Der Mann, der nichts von der Liebe verstand, unveröffentlichtes Manuskript, entstanden ab 1940
10       Der Mann, der nichts von der Liebe verstand, verfasst ab 1940

11       Mitteilung von Essad Beys Cousin ersten Grades, M. Naoum Hermont, Paris
12       Siehe auch: Essad Bey: Das weiße Russland, Leipzig 1991, Kapitel »Die toten Seelen«, Seiten 71–75

13       Essad Bey: Liebe und Erdöl, Freiburg 2008, Seite 13; weitere autobiografische Erlebnisse aus dieser Zeit verarbeitete Essad Bey in seinem unter „Kurban Said“ veröffentlichten Roman Das Mädchen vom Goldenen Horn. Siehe dort das Essay von Behrang Samsami (in der Ausgabe Frankfurt 2009).
14       Flüssiges Gold erschien in Berlin bei Etthofen und in Zürich bei Rascher. Rascher brachte 1937 eine erweiterte Neuauflage heraus, in deren Impressum die Angabe »10. bis 12. Tausend« zu finden ist.

15       Siehe Öl und Blut im Orient und 12 Geheimnisse im Kaukasus, beide Freiburg 2008

16       Essad Bey, Flüssiges Gold

17       ebd.

18       ebd.

 19       Essad Bey, Das weiße Russland, 1932; Essad Bey, Flüssiges Gold, 1937; Andreas Dornheim, Röhms Mann fürs Ausland, Münster 1998; Wikipedia-Eintrag zu Deterding und Gulbenkian

 

Essad Bey’s two Pulp Novels – A Surprising Discovery

Essad Bey’s Novellas

Manuela  and  Love and Petroleum

A Surprising Discovery1

By Hans-Jürgen Maurer

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By 1934, when the Polish publisher Republika in Łodz released Essad Bey’s two pulp novels, he had already produced a notable number of texts. Between 1926 (aged 21) and 1933 Essad Bey had contributed more than 160 articles to Willy Haas’s literary magazine Die literarische Welt. His first book appeared in the winter of 1929/1930 when he was 24 years old. It was his satirical quasi-autobiography Blood and Oil in the Orient in which he “fabulated” about his childhood in Baku and his adventurous flight from the Bolsheviks. Between this book and the two pulp novels or novellas, eight more books of his were published – among them the bio­graphies Stalin and Mohammed, two books about the Caucasus, three about Russia and one about petroleum. This places the novellas half-way between his autobiographical debut and his timeless masterpiece Ali and Nino, which was published 1937 under the pseudonym Kurban Said.

We don’t know anything about the rediscovery of “Manuela” and “Love and Petroleum” but we can assume that Professor Gerhard Höpp (†2003) of Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin found them by way of a worldwide routine search in library catalogues. He had begun investigating Essad Bey’s life in the early 1990s. Up to the point of Höpp’s discovery, their exis­tence was totally unknown. And to date nothing else has come to light about them, no manuscripts, no correspondence – except perhaps a casual remark found in the autobiography of Essad Bey’s literary agent Karl Frucht (Hertha Pauli’s business partner), namely that “we successfully sold some of his adventurous short stories”.2 Since so far nothing is known of other “adventurous short stories”, Karl Frucht might indeed speak of the two novellas.

Simply structured and narrated, these stories don’t seem to fit seamlessly into Essad Bey’s literary oeuvre, at least not at first sight. And yet, these two “penny dreadfuls” doubtlessly are genuine “Essad Beys” because an “Essad Bey” contains the very life-themes of the author himself: petroleum, which he first had narrated in Twelve Secrets in the Caucasus (1930), with the difference that he puts the plot to the service of the Portuguese revolution. Last but not least, he’s combining two big financial scandals of 1925 and 1929/30.

Alone these references to world history, into which Essad Bey puts his protagonists, distinguish the two novellas from regular pulp novels. This is important to note, because they have been criticized as “simplistic and primitive …” and having “… cheap, sensational plots. His protagonists are involved with the dark world of intrigue, seduction, blackmail and revenge in their quest to acquire big money and power.”3

Let’s not forget that these stories are just that: dime novels written for that Polish series of weekly pulp fiction.

Now let’s look at some details of the plots of “Manuela” and “Love and Petroleum”.

“Manuela”

Manuela_poln_cover_k
Co Tydzien Powiesc! = Every week a novel!
Price for this issue 30 Groszy
Nr. 42
Each issue is a complete story

 

The backdrop of this story is Portugal before the military coup of 1926, during the time of political instability and frequently changing governments. A few revolutionaries want to overthrow the government. They are coming up with the daring plan of emitting large quantities of legally printed bank­notes in order to unleash an inflation, which might in turn upset the popu­lation against the government. The heroine of the novel is the young and pretty Manuela Letão. She supports the revolutionaries in order to avenge her father who was a former general. By clever and witty moves the revo­- lutionaries manage to convince the British money printers that they are official envoys of the Bank of Portugal and fully authorized to order a series of banknotes. In many ludicrous (and sometimes not very convincing) ways these banknotes are being released into the market. Among them: Manuela, the main protagonist, shops in Paris “till she drops”.

As a result the Portuguese Escudo and economy deteriorate and the government is indeed overthrown.

Into this story Essad Bey has built the following historical incidents:

The real banknote scandal by which the Portuguese economy collapsed on account of large amounts of real bank notes took place in 1925. A certain Alves dos Reis (1898–1955) succeeded in convincing the British bank note printers Waterlow & Sons Ltd.,

whose client the Portuguese National Bank had been for years, that he was authorized to order 200,000 bank­notes of 500 Escudos each (see illustration above). Once this large number of legally printed bank notes circulated in the market they had a disastrous effect on the economy. The loss of reputation of the Portuguese government and currency was immense. In the real case of Alves dos Reis the printers Waterlow & Sons Ltd. had to pay compensation to Portugal and, as a result, had to file for bankruptcy. In “Manuela”, however, the revolutionaries have “noble” motives and the story has a happy-end: the printers are discharged as not guilty and the blame is put on Portugal.

The motives of the real Alves dos Reis were simply power and personal gain4. It is likely that he was ignorant of the effect these bank notes would create. But Essad Bey’s protagonists know better – no wonder, the novel was written nine years after the real scandal. For them it is easy to submit their cause selflessly to the revolution.

That “good” motive Essad Bey had borrowed from another money-forgery scandal which caused international headlines in 1930 and was called the “Chervonets Affaire”.

“Chervonets” was the denomination of the currency used in the Russian empire and then by the Soviets until 1947. Revolutionaries from Georgia/Caucasus had produced in Germany a large quantity of Chervonets banknotes, which they wanted to circulate in the Soviet-ruled Caucasus. They were hoping to undermine the Soviet economy. It is thinkable that the Alves dos Reis scandal and its effect on Portugal had given them the idea. But their plan failed, German police discovered the banknotes in a warehouse in Frankfurt before they could be dispatched, and the forfeiters were brought to trial. The Chervonets trial took place in Berlin-Moabit in 1930 and Essad Bey took part in it as a journalistic observer.5 At first, the money forgers were lucky: the German court discharged them on the grounds of the newly-passed „Reichs-Amnestie“ for political offendors. Due to the protest of the Soviet Union in 1938 a revision was held in 1930 and the forgers were sentenced to prison for two years, respectively two years and 10 months.6

As mentioned above, Essad Bey used a robbers’ tale in “Manuela” which he had first written down in his Twelve Secrets of the Caucasus: By pretense all policemen and soldiers were lured out of the Daghestanian city of Kislar and a gang of robbers mugged the whole city, including all private households, the bank and the post office. To delay the robbers’ discovery, all inhabitants of the city were forced to strip naked and were left behind without clothes. Supposedly this robbery was organized by a certain Kamo, a comrade of Stalin, to support Lenin, then still in Switzerland, with the loot. In “Manuela” the Portuguese revolutionaries use the same trick.

Manuela_poln_ersteSeite_k
First page of the Polish original edition

 

*  *  *

“Love and Petroleum”

 

Milosc_poln_cover_k
Co Tydzien Powiesc! = Every week a novel!Price for this issue 30 Groszy
Nr. 46
Each issue is a complete story

After an adventurous escape from the Bolsheviks in Batumi, the Georgian princess Tamara stands on the streets of Paris. Just when she’s fainting of exhaustion the attractive Vano catches her before she hits the ground. Vano proves to be Tamara’s compatriot. He takes her to the mysterious Armenian Petros Petrossian who is a business tycoon. Petrossian exploits Tamara in his battle against the Bolsheviks by matchmaking her to Sir Richard King, a petroleum tycoon. Petrossian hopes that King, through his love for Tamara, might be moved to help fight for the liberation of Tamara’s home country – and, by that, regain access to the Caucasian oil fields.

The author has used the following autobiographical details and historical personalities:

Essad Bey surely named the Georgian princess Tamara Alaschidse not only after the legendary Queen Tamara (1160–1230), but also after his favorite aunt Tamara, the younger sister of his mother Bertha, with whom he was very close, since they were only twelve years apart.

Like Princess Tamara’s route of escape, Essad Bey and his father went from Georgia to Turkey – not alone in a little sail boat like the girl, but first class in a luxury liner, where the waiters proclaimed, that “after the departure from Georgian waters all prices are to be understood in gold.”7

Arriving in Istanbul, the Nussimbaums resided in Turkey’s first international luxury hotel, the Pera Palas, which was built in 1892 particularly for the passengers of the then-new Orient Express. Princess Tamara only sold matchsticks in front of that hotel. In one short sentence Essad Bey describes how the girl felt for the city: “For her Constantinople was a dream” – and in truth he’s speaking of himself. In his last (yet unpublished) manuscript Essad Bey – or in this case rather “Kurban Said” – describes vividly what that city meant to him: “I can hardly recall the feelings of that distant boy who walked, almost staggering of bliss, through the streets of the Caliph’s city and visited the mosques.”8

For both the writer and the novel’s character, Princess Tamara, Constantinople was just a stop-over on the way to Paris, the “capital of the world”. There Essad Bey and his father stayed with rich relatives from his mother’s side, “in a large house on the Champs Elysees”9 – the Hotel Windsor10. In his last manuscript Essad Bey describes his Paris wanderings and his insights into the life of the poor immigrants. During this time (Lev was about 15 years old) he also must have learnt about the high-finance and politics around petroleum. Like other oil-well owners, father Nussimbaum was able to sell “dead souls” – i.e. the ownership documents of their Caucasian oil wells – to Shell, Standard Oil and other investors. This was possible because the whole Western world believed that the “spook of the Bolsheviks” would disappear within a year. (This notion, which proved to be wrong, was the reason why virtually none of the oil millionaires considered cutting back expenses and many of them ended-up as taxi drivers or worse.) By way of selling the “dead souls” the Nussimbaums were able, at least for a while, to keep-up their luxurious life-style.11

In 1921 father and son Nussimbaum settled in Berlin where their money soon ran out. The deeply despairing feeling of being uprooted shines through when Essad Bey writes in “Love and Petroleum”: “They say a refugee’s bread is bitter. This is not true. A refugee’s bread is neither bitter nor sweet, because the exile has no bread to offer to the refugees.”12

Princess Tamara’s destiny takes a happy turn when she marries the petroleum tycoon Richard King. In Essad Bey’s own life, petroleum is connected rather to tragedy. Only after 1930, with the success of his quasi-autobiography Blood and Oil in the Orient his own destiny took a happy turn. Before the two novellas were written, Essad Bey’s Flüssiges Gold (“Liquid Gold”), which is the “biography of the global power petroleum”, was published in 1933. It was among his most successful books until the war broke out in 1939. In a way petroleum and Essad Bey stayed faithful to each other. Looking at the publishing dates and cross-references of Flüssiges Gold and the novellas one can easily see that Essad Bey recycled some of the big book’s material into the thin ones.

Essad Bey’s homesickness to the Caucasus shines through in Princess Tamaras dreams of her green Georgian homeland. Surely Essad Bey had an emotional connection to Georgia, where his father was born in 1873 and where his parents had married in October 1904.

Next to these autobiographical traces we find in “Love and Petroleum” persons from the economical history of petroleum and their doings. Indeed, Essad Bey’s protagonists Tamara Alaschidse, Richard King and Petros Petrossian have their real-life models. Tamara’s was Lydia Pawlowna, a Russian-Caucasian immigrant, and, as Tamara, a general’s daughter. She was the wife of Sir Henry Wilhelm August Deterding (1866–1939), founder and main shareholder of Royal Dutch Shell, who was, in turn, the model for Richard King. Sixty per cent of the Caucasian oil wells belonged to Deterding, and as in Essad Bey’s novel, he met his wife Lydia Pawlowna in the salon of an obscure finance expert – Calouste Gulbenkian – whose name in the novel is Petros Petrossian.

Calouste Gulbenkian (1869–1955) was born and raised in Turkey. He was of Armenian des­cent and a financial expert, petroleum researcher and art collector who managed to position himself as an unavoidable negotiator in the worldwide petroleum industry and accumulated legendary wealth. Between 1915 and 1942 he lived – like Petrossian – in his house at the Etoile in Paris. And as in the novel, Gulbenkian and Deterding were at odds with each other over the question of the Soviet oil. Just like in the novel, also in real-life Gulbenkian unleashed the stock exchange intrigue against Shell. 13

However, the Petrossian in the novella does not have much likeness to his real-life model Gulbenkian. Essad Bey attributes character traits to him, which, according to his book Flüssiges Gold, were known of John D. Rockefeller – i.e. the daily reading of the Bible and of the stock exchange reports. The reason for this might be that such details were readily available about Rockefeller but not about Gulbenkian.

In “Love and Petroleum” we find three sentences about Richard King which are not explained and don’t seem to be connected to the story:

“Richard King and the Forgers” (German page 34);

“Richard King was the only man on earth whose name one could be read in the newspapers in the same sentence with money forgers without having this harm him” (German page 35);

“Richard thought about the money-forgers who were always mentioned together with his own name” (German page 39).

These clearly are hints to the “Chervonets trial” in Berlin which Essad Bey visited as a journalistic observer, as described further above. In that trial the two defendants Karumidse and Sadatheraschwili claimed that Sir Henry Deterding, founder and main shareholder of Royal Dutch Shell, had financed the preparations for the Chervonets forgery. Deterding was one of the richest people on earth at the time and known to be a dedicated enemy of the Bolsheviks. It surely was in his interest to overthrow the Soviet regime in order to regain access to his Caucasian oil fields. Deterding, or course, denied any connections to the forgers.

That the above listed three sentences are not connected to the rest of the story was perhaps a result of Essad Bey’s quick way of writing. The Polish translator did obviously not stumble over them.

The real-life model for Richard King, Henry Deterding was a Dutchman. In 1920 he became a honorific Knight of the British Empire for his contribution to Dutch-British relations. He moved the headquarters of his company Royal Dutch Shell from Amsterdam to London – most likely to have the British military as a rear cover especially in his competition with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and the conflicts connected to that overseas.14

Just by the way I would like to mention that Deterding was a great sympathizer of the Nazis in Germany (perhaps because they opposed the Bolsheviks) and he supported them with many millions from his own pocket. In 1937 he supposedly donated 70 million Reichsmark to the Winter Emergency Relief Fund in Germany. He owned a manor in the province of Mecklenburg. Hitler sent a mourning wreath to Deter­ding’s funeral in 1939.15

Milosc_poln_ersteSeite_k
First page of the Polish original edition

 

*      *      *

Looking at Essad Bey’s oevre, these two pulp novels surely hold their own position. But with their historical references, their characteristic way of portraying people, their dense, adventurous plots they surely bear Essad Bey’s handwriting. This makes these two accidental finds a rewarding discovery, not only for Essad Bey fans.

 

Notes:

1          This essay appeared first in the German edition of these two novellas, Liebe und Erdöl und Manuela, Freiburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-929345-35-3. It was revised and expanded for this English translation.

2          Remembered and written down probably in the early 1990s (some 56 years later), published in 1992: Karl Frucht, Verlustanzeige: Ein Überlebensbericht (“Notice of Loss: A Survival Report”), Vienna, 1992, p. 113.

3          Betty Blair in her publication Azerbaijan International, 2011, pages 313, 331, 356

4          Alves dos Reis’ story was described in detail by Murray T. Bloom in The Man Who Stole Portugal, New York, 1953. In 1970 German television adapted this book into a thriller called Millionen nach Maß (DVD available: “Custom-made Millions”). Thomas Gifford dramatized this story in his novel Escudo.

5          In his book White Russia Essad Bey dedicated the chapter “The Georgian Money Forgers” to this scandal. Second edition, Leipzig and Weimar 1991, pp. 211–217. The writer Robert Neumann used this story for his novel Die Macht (“The Power”). Essad Bey and Neumann knew each other in Vienna although it is not known how well, and it is uncertain if any conclusions regarding their publications can be drawn from this fact.

6          Michael Sayers and Albert E. Kahn, The Great Conspiracy Against Russia, New York, 1946 (German trans­lation:  Die große Verschwörung – Darstellung des antikommunistischen Kampfes 1919–1945; Source: http://www.stalinwerke.de/verschw/verschw.pdf

7          Blood and Oil in the Orient, Freiburg, 2008, p. 257

8          “The Man Who Knew Nothing about Love”, written from 1940 onwards

9          I.b.d

10       Information given by Essad Bey’s first cousin, Mr. Naoum Hermont, in a personal conversation.

11       See: Das weiße Russland, (“White Russia”), chapter “The Dead Souls”

12       We find a few experiences from that time also in Essad Bey’s/Kurban Said’s novel The Girl from the Golden Horn, which is his most autobiographical book. See also Behrang Samsami’s German language essay in the same novel, Frankfurt 2009

13       Essad Bey: Flüssiges Gold (“Liquid Gold”)

14       Ibd.

15       Essad Bey: Das weiße Russland; Flüssiges Gold; Andreas Dornheim: Röhms Mann fürs Ausland, Münster 1998 (“Röhm’s Man for Abroad”); Wikipedia entry for Deterding and Gulbenkian

Blair’s Botch

 

Ali & Nino

The Business of Literature
Who wrote Azerbaijan’s most famous Novel?

in
“Azerbaijan International” 2011

A Review

by Hans-Jürgen Maurer

Foreword

In September 2011 the notable British Newspaper, The Guardian, published an article with the headline “The vanishing fascination of truly anonymous authors”. In it the author Daniel Kalder gives a brief but excellent overview of the fight over the question “Who is behind the author Kurban Said who wrote the novel Ali & Nino?”. Reading this article I was particularly glad to learn that there are other people out there who own a sense of discrimination when it comes to the problems described. Kalder writes:

“Thus if you visit the book’s [Ali & Nino] Wikipedia page you will see that some very helpful people have 1) declined to mention Reiss’s book [The Orientalist] even though it was a bestseller in several countries, 2) indulged in some character assassination aimed at Nussimbaum (which is nothing compared to the muck flung at him on his biographical entry), and 3) advanced the thesis that the “core author” is the “Azerbaijani writer and statesman” Yusif Vazir Chamanzaminli, apparently on the basis of DEEP textual analysis, although they admit that Essad Bey’s “fingerprints” are on the book – yucky! Of course, the refusal to name Reiss’s book on the Ali and Nino Wiki page is indicative of the extreme insecurity the invisible editors have regarding their claims.”

Below this article five reader’s comments can be found. I assert bluntly that four of them were written by the “invisible editors” of the wikipedia manipulation, who is merely just one editor, namely Mrs. Betty Blair of Los Angeles, USA. No one else on the face of this earth promotes the idea of the Azeri authorship of “Ali & Nino” with more fierceness and near-religious fervor.

Betty Blair is the editor-in-chief of the magazine Azerbaijan International, a quarterly journal, whose numbers 1 to 3 of 2011 consisted of one big issue, entitled “Ali and Nino – The Business of Literature” – and my review here is about that publication.

I feel the need and urge to reply to this publication because I believe that Betty Blair has gone too far, and that someone needs to speak-up. That’s why this review is written in a personal tone, not fearing polemics or even clear statements which may be sometimes regarded as blunt.

Daniel Kalder continues:

“In fact, these days when an author disappears it inspires in certain souls a mad detective hunt. Bitter wars erupt between scholars, and tremendous amounts of creative energy are wasted on quixotic pursuits of the author’s “true identity”.”

So I have to say, that I hope I have not “wasted my creative energy” but used it to set a few things straight – or was at least able to present a broadened outlook on statements given in Betty Blair’s unfortunate – or should I say “infamous” publication.

The subject matter is complex and covers a vast ground. Years have been spent in study and research as well as in constant reflective discussion with fellow researchers; and indeed it takes its own time to find one’s way through the jungle of facts related to the life of Lev Nussimbaum a.k.a. Essad Bey a.k.a Kurban Said – and everything around it.

I would like to add that this review here will probably not be enjoyed by the “uninitiated” reader. This is due to the reasons mentioned above and due to the fact that I as the reviewer address my text to those who have at least some insight into the problems around Ali & Nino. But I wish this text to be at least an eye-opener for anyone who wants to take the risk and read Betty Blair’s publication.

Kindly bear with the reviewer in regards of English grammar, orthography and punctuation. He ist neither a native English speaker nor has he never lived in an English speaking country. If you find typos, give him a friendly yell by e-mail.

And so I should like to close this foreword with the words Daniel Kalder concluded his article with: By all means, do enjoy reading Ali & Nino!

 

Introduction

2011, when this volume came out, “Azerbaijan International” was already in its 16th year of publication. Award winning (self-statement) and America-based, it used to appear four times yearly in Los Angeles and Baku. Editor Betty Blair created this “independent publication, which seeks to provide a forum for discussion and thought related to Azerbaijanis throughout the world”. In the year 2011, however, something was different. The magazine “Ali and Nino – The Business of Literature” alone forms three of the four yearly issues, consisting of impressing 364 pages, and it should really be called “a book”. And this I am going to call it from here on.

This big publication has the measures of the American Letter Size format and weighs 1,3 kilos. It’s on the table in front of me. The paperback cover shows the portraits of four authors: Azeri writer and statesman Yusuf Vezir Chemenzeminli, Austrian Baroness Elfriede von Ehrenfels, Georgian writer Grigol Robakidse and Essad Bey. These four portraits are designed as interconnected pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This is a clever allusion to the content of this work, because the whole issue is quite puzzling.

Below the cover image I read the subtitle, which immediately makes me come to a halt: “Who wrote Azerbaijan’s most famous novel?”
This does not sound right, because “Ali & Nino” is certainly not “Azerbaijan’s most famous novel” but rather “the most famous novel in Azerbaijan” – or perhaps “the most famous novel playing in Azerbaijan”.
I must insist on this subtlety – why, will be shown further down.

Thumbing-through

I open the book and I am overwhelmed and in awe by my first impression. Images over images on these 364 pages – hundreds! – many of which were never seen before (at least not by me). Century-old postcards from Baku, maps, buildings, people, countless book covers. Some of these images are sensational, like Lev Nussimbaum’s birth certificate – published for the first time ever. Or the Ashumov building in Baku, the last residence of the Nussimbaum family – which obviously has been identified in the meantime. Wonderful!

The impressive table of contents gives us almost forty chapters which deal with the question “Who is the author of Ali and Nino?”

It is very obvious: researching, collecting and filing of the presented info was a gigantic task. Here may be mentioned that the reviewer is a writer, publisher and a typesetter himself and knows what he is speaking about.

Let’s jump to page 18 and marvel at more than 80 book covers of Ali & Nino in 36 languages. On the back of that double page we find the portrait photos of 60 (!) people who contributed over the years to this voluminous work in one way or another. These photos are supplemented by introductory texts about each single of these helpful persons, which cover more than 11 pages to follow.

Chapeau, Betty Blair!

Now let’s take a look at the chapter “Frequently Asked Questions”.

On pages 52 through 95 158 questions are posed and answered – these 158 answers are pointing towards further 543 end notes presented on 43 pages, which round-off and back-up the answers given before. (However, this was just one chapter.)

The publisher says that this book contains 1200 photos. Indeed I am overwhelmed and I can only but admire the quality of design and layout.

Beginning to read

But then I began to read. Already in the first minute I began to frown, thinking: “No,  you can’t put it this way, this is not quite precise.” Or: “No, there’s no proof for this statement, how can you present this as a given fact?”

This went on and on – no matter on which page I was reading.

So I tried another strategy: I kept on reading, but took notes about each sentence, which contained errors, or was incorrect or simply wrong. However, after one hour I had to give up. I had not even covered one page of the book – and not even written down every comment or correction needed. I had no hope whatsoever to touch even the tip of the iceberg of all erroneous statements – most of which were not only erroneous, but also slanderous, superfluous, and – pardon me – stupid.

Do not be discouraged by my stern and frank words here, keep reading on, I will explain the best I can.

As I said, I had to stop my initial plan of commenting each single sentence which needed commenting. For a few weeks I felt at the end of my wits. Questions over questions formed in my mind. I couldn’t understand how the editor, who seems to be an experienced journalist with an enquiring mind, can be contented with carelessly throwing half-truths, assertions, insinuations and distortions to the readership of this book which, out of necessity can only be of the uninitiated kind. Nobody who has not studied the whole subject for at least one year – if not longer – will have developed a sort-of “inner compass” that guides one through this vast field of knowledge. Indeed, the available info about Essad Bey is immense.

Now the most pressing questions in my mind were: WHY THIS BOOK? and WHAT FOR?

Will I be able to answer them?

 

Disclaimer

I have to give a disclaimer here. I call this text of mine a review. But the points to be criticized in Ali and Nino – The Business of Literature are so numerous, that I can only touch upon a few of them. I picked them at random. Not commenting on other issues does not mean that I agree. And the examples I picked for this review form in no way a hierarchy of “most important” – or the opposite.

The reason for this is simply that this book is – put quite frankly – a bottomless pit.

What follows here can be just A FEW examples. But even if they are few, they still represent as such the general make-up and quality of the reviewed work.

Why It Just Ain’t So, Betty Blair!

Example 1

An analysis of the usage of the terms “drug”, “drug dealer”, “hashish” and “pain”.

Betty Blair says more than 16 times in her book that “Giamil Vacca Mazzara was a drug dealer” (as on pages 39, 47, 92, 211) and that Essad Bey took Hashish (pages 47, 81, 92, 108, 133, 151) and morphine (page 131, quoting someone else).

Uuuuuh – bad people! A drug dealer and a drug taker! WOW!
Does this not shed a bad light on both Essas Bey and Giamil Vacca Mazzara?

Well, if you’re as lucky as the proverbial blind squirrel finding a nut once in a while, you may have found the – only  two – instances which do justice to Essad Bey and Vacca Mazzara – by saying WHY the latter provided the previous with drugs: namely to kill the excruciating pain he was suffering from his disease (pages 131 and 151). And in one isolated other paragraph on page 131 Betty Blair explains why this was indeed necessary: because “during the war [morphine] would have been difficult to acquire.” And this quote is not Blair’s own observation but a reproduction of Essad Bey’s statement – however, formulated in a conditional form.

Essad Bey did suffer from the “Buerger-Syndrome“, a disease of the blood vessles in the feet and legs, which let E.B.s foot rot on his living body, causing excruciating pain. World War II was in full go by that time and almost all available morphine was needed at the front to treat  wounded soldiers. Also the local pharmacist in Positano was tired to provide the pennyless patient Essad Bey with this rare drug.

Now, who would deem it fair to label Giamil Vacca-Mazzara – who most likely was indeed a very doubtful figure – simply as a „drug dealer“? And call Essad Bey simply a “drug addict”? After all it was him, giving the sufferer a few painless hours here and there.

I find it most irritating that Blair knows these facts and yet does not hesitate to use a few details so selectively in order to slander our protagonist. The ratio between 16 mentionings and only 2 clarifications – sprinkled over 363 pages – is too poor to be fair – or should I say “heartless”?

Example 2

Referring to page 56, number 24, dealing with the assertion that Ali & Nino could not have been written in 1936/1937 but much earlier, in order to convey the pain and suffering in such fresh way.

Quote:

“The story [A&N], undoubtedly, could not have been written with the same poignancy and pain had it been penned in 1936 – 16 years after the tragic events had occurred. Time anesthetizes and blurs the memory. The throbbing pain ceases. It only seems logical that the novel was written much earlier.”

Actually, such a statement is too silly to comment on. A good writer can invoke ALL emotions in a reader. That E.B. was able to write “with the same poignancy and pain” was certified by award winning German Islamic Scholar Navid Kermani. In his review about E.B.s book “Allah is Great” (written together with Wolfgang von Weisl), published in the notable German weekly “Die Zeit”, Kermani mentions also E.B.s biography on the prophet Mohammed:

“… But above all Bey was a brilliant, intoxicating sylist. Bey is writing a German that nowadays hardly exists among non-fiction writers, even less among experts on Islam. It has rhythm and uses harmonious imagery, is rich in semantic and syntactic variants and he understands so much of the arc of suspense, that this carries the author away from historical facts towards possible but not proven fiction. His biography on Mohammed […] has no place in specialised libraries – but as reading matter for the vespertine hours of the day one could not think of a more entertainig depiction, which in addition captures the spirit of the early islamic history much better than any source-critical monography.” (Highlighting be me.)

In other words: Essad Bey was very well able to bring a time alive which was just two decades ago, as in Ali & Nino. He has proven this with his biography on Mohammed in which he depicts a time which is more than fourteen hundred decades ago. What else is “being a professional writer” about?

 

Example 3

Treament of Essad Bey’s Novellas

In 1934 appeared two novellas, or rather “pulp novels” in the Polish series: “Co Tydzień Powieść” (“A new novel each week”, published in Łodz, Poland: Republic Publishing House).

They bear the titles “Miłosc i nafta” (Love and Petroleum), and “Manuela”.

Blair frequently quotes Georgian scholar Dr. Zaza Aleksidze. He had had the chance to read the novels in their Russian translation (published by ISSC in Baku), so he was able to inform Blair about the novellas.

I cannot agree to what he says about them: „Essad Bey’s fiction is simplistic and primitive when compared to Kurban Said’s masterpiece Ali and Nino”, (AI, page 162, Endnote 60)

After all, these two stories are just pulp novels, “penny dreadfuls”, “dime novels” – clearly proven by the fact that the two stories were written to fit into a line of pulp novels.

Yes, the style is not sophisticated, but it was never meant to be. And yet, the content of the two novels is far from being primitive. Essad Bey would not be Essad Bey if he hadn’t written about the major themes of his life: oil, the world of high finance, bolshevism, revolution. And so he did here. Essad Bey weaved world history together into two simple stories which are not merely invented for cheap emotional effect and entertainment (which is usually the purpose of pulp novels).

To make a statement like “Essad Bey’s fiction is simplistic and primitive …” shows either the total lack of deeper knowlege and consideration, or the aim to suppress holistic information. But it clearly shows how the editor of this book uses each little sign to bend the truth to fit her purpose. And this purpose is “Essad Bey bashing” or, as the Daniel Kalder puts it in his article in The Guardian: “character assassination”.

Further Blair, who has NEVER read these stories and obviously speaks only one language further comments on Essad Beys two pulp novels on page 313, right column:

“His protagonists are involved with the dark world of intrigue, seduction, blackmail and revenge in their quest to acquire big money and power.”

What does one expect of dime novels? But as mentioned above, the basic plot of these stories happened more or less like this in real life – and there they DID play in the dark world of intrigue and blackmail!

These words here are used by Blair just for the sake to shed a dim light onto Essad Bey – using the same pulp fiction methods.

For further insight into Essad Bey’s two pulp novels see my essay which is published here on this blog in German and English.

 

Example 4

Treatment of Hertha Pauli

AI, page 75, number 81, and the respective endnotes

Pauli, Herta E. (“Bertha” is wrong). “Letter to the Editor about Authorship of Ali and Nino,” in New York Times Book Review (August 8,1971), p. 27.

Mrs. Hertha Pauli (1911–1973) was Essad Bey’s literary agent during his time in Vienna. She and her business partner Karl Frucht was responsible for the deal with Zinnen-Verlag for “The Girl from the Golden Horn” and for many adventure stories they solf ro E.B.

On June 27, 1971, The New York Times published an article entitled: “The Last Word: Who Wrote ‘Ali and Nino’?” which follows the claims Yusif Kahraman and Mustafa Türkekul of Washington D.C. That’s another story to be told somewhere else. In short: The two exiled Azerbaijanis read the novel, recognised names, streets,  palaces, historical events, but had no clue who the author “Kurban Said” might possibly have been. They simply added 1 and 1 together and claimed the author only could have been Yusif Vezir Çemenzeminli. That’s how this unfortunate theory was born. After they’d written to Random House, the editors there informed the New York Times and Walter Clemons worte the above mentioned article, following Kahraman’s and Türkekul’s theory.

But shortly after Walter Clemons’s article appeared in The New York Times, they received a letter by Hertha Pauli, which was deemed important enought to be printed in The New York Times on August 8, 1971. This letter reads:

To the Editor:

May I add another word to Walter Clemons’s exciting “Last Word” (June 27) about the authorship of “Ali and Nino”? I just have to tell you that I read the novel at the time of its successful, first publication, 1937, in my native Vienna and talked to the author himself about it.

To my knowledge “Kurban Said” was Essad Bey, a colleague and friend of mine, whose nonfiction books were translated into many languages and can still be found at the New York Public Library.

I met Essad Bey in Vienna in 1933; he had come from Berlin, where the Nazis had taken over. He was then in his 30’s and looked somewhat like King Hussein without the mustache, and his wit and charm were most engaging. He joined a writers’ cooperative, “Austrian Correspondence,” I had organized to provide authors whose work was “undesirable” in the Third Reich with opportunities for publication elsewhere. Essad Bey was soon contributing numerous articles about the history and customs of his Transcaucasian homeland.

Essad came from a Transcaucasian Jewish family named Nussinbaum and took the name Essad Bey when he turned Moslem. He never made a secret of his ancestry; he spoke of it openly in his usual amusing fashion. This may have been why he wasn’t publicly attacked during those years of rising anti-Semitism in Vienna.

The biographical data you quote from the introduction to “Ali and Nino” corresponds exactly to what Essad told me. When his homeland Azerbaijan was taken over by the Soviets in the early twenties he went to Berlin and launched his career as a writer. (He told funny anecdotes about his learning to write in German and about his knowing Stalin when Stalin was still Djugashvili —”a highwayman.”)

At the Cafe Herrenhof in Vienna, where we met regularly, I also sometimes saw his old father, who seemed to me like an odd character of one of his son’s books.

Essad Bey stayed in Vienna till 1938, when he fled, like myself, because of the Anschluss. He went to Italy, where he would be safe, and died there soon after from elephantiasis.

“Ali and Nino,” his only novel, was the one book for which he used a pseudonym, because, he said, it was so different from his serious non-fiction. (Another reason may have been that as “Kurban Said” it could still be sold in the German market.)

The new, excellent English translation brings the German original vividly to my mind; I seem to hear Essad talking again in his particularly witty way, especially as the stage is set at the beginning of the book.

Bertha Pauli
Huntington, N. Y.

Walter Clemons replies:

Miss Pauli’s identification of “Kurban Said” as Essad Bey is reinforced by a letter to Random House from Alexander Brailow, who knew Essad Bey first as a schoolboy in Baku and later in Europe. Four of Essad Bey’s books were published in America in the early thirties: “Twelve Secrets of the Caucasus” (1931), and biographies of Stalin, Mohammed and Nicholas II.

 

Blair’s treatment of this subject on page 75, right column, and the two preceding lines reads like this:

“She prefaced her remarks in the Times with the caveat: “To my knowledge,” before adding her personal opinion that Essad Bey was Kurban Said. […] “to my knowledge” makes her statement conditional, as if she were hesitating to make an absolutely conclusive statement equating Essad Bey with Kurban Said.”

Since late Mrs. Pauli cannot defend herself and make her statement more precise, I will have to do it for her. Again, Blair would not miss the opportunity to drive her axe into this tiny cleft – or what she wants to be one. Unfortunately she forgets the fact of the language barrier. The subtleties of a foreign language (English, in this case) cannot be learned fully by an adult. Hertha Pauli was an adult when she arrived in the USA. If Blair spoke any foreign language she would know about this.

Hertha Pauli’s native language was German, and in our language is it perfectly alright to use this phrase without losing credibility – she says nothing but: “It is my knowledge that Kurban Said was Essad Bey.” It is a polite way of speaking – quite obviously something alien to the author of that book.

And what about the heavy content in the rest of the letter? No, Blair is just hovering upon three words in a half-sentence. Do not be mistaken by Hertha Pauli’s conscientious and polite way of speaking. After all this is to be preferred over the insinuative, unconstructive manner and the suspecting criticism in which Blair’s whole volume is written as a whole.

What really strikes me here: Where Hertha Pauli uses the polite phrase “to my knowledge”- after confirming in the sentence before, that she has talked to the author himself about this book, Blair, in the rest of her book, speaks always with full authority about things he has no proof for.

And some proof against her theories are being suppressed by herself:

When The New York Times printed Hertha Pauli’s letter, which was a reply to Walter Clemons’ article, the latter added to Hertha Pauli’s letter:

Miss Pauli’s identification of “Kurban Said” as Essad Bey is reinforced by a letter to Random House from Alexander Brailow, who knew Essad Bey first as a schoolboy in Baku and later in Europe. Four of Essad Bey’s books were published in America in the early thirties: “Twelve Secrets of the Caucasus” (1931), and biographies of Stalin, Mohammed and Nicholas II.

This reply is printed right under Pauli’s letter. It was suppressed by Blair in her publication!

 

Example 5

Flowchart on double page 152-53

The flow chart on the double page shows books by Essad Bey in the sequence of their published date.

It is headed by this insinuative question: “Did he really write all those books published under his name?

Most of the displayed book covers have BBs comments, and here follows some comments of mine on those comments.

 

a)  A New York Times review of 1932 about “Stalin”: “A dangerous book …. the average reader… may be misled.”

At that point in time Essad Bey was the first one to fully understand fully Stalin’s regime and impact on the world. Most of his contemporaies – even intelligent papers like The New York Times, still believed in the good revoluationary spirit of Stalin – a disastrous misconception. Essad Bey was the first warner – unheard unfortunately.

 

b) “Liquid Gold”: “Many passages are unlike Essad Bey’s style.”

I don’t know which edition Blair has read. It does not exist in English and it is unlikely that Blair speaks more than her native tonuge.  I have read the German original, and, being an editor, publisher and writer myself, I declare, that the whole book is typically Essad Bey.

 

c) “Love and Oil”: “How is it that E.B. knew the geography of Atchara in Blood and Oil” but not here in Love and Oil”?

Well, “Love and Petroleum” (which would be the correct translation) and along with it “Manuela” were intended from the beginning to be nothing more than pulp novels. And this is all that needs to be said.

 

d) “Caucasus” “… written by an Armenian point of view…”

So what? This only proves that Essad Bey transcended his nationality and upbringing and that he was not a nationalist – unlike the influence behind the magazine Azerbaijan International.

 

For the time being my review has to be concluded here. I have far more important things to do with my precious lifetime. However, one day I might expand this text.

Feel free to ask me questions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pleasant Book from Azerbaijan – Some Remarks

Literary Sources of Azerbaijani Multiculturalism

published by the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre, 2016
ISBN 978-9952-28-342-2

 

Receiving this little volume left me quite surprised.

As the table of content shows, this book features 78 (!) different Azerbaijani authors – and Kurban Said is one of them.

The short excerpts presented in the Ali & Nino chapter gives me the impression that this book is a signal of readiness to stretch out the hand to … whoever wants to take it.  Something to soothen the otherwise prevailing war rethorics on a more outward level. I presume that nothing in Azerbaijan of this scale is published without the consent of the governement, so this book is to be regarded as an official signal of appeasement.  And that even more since this quotation by the State President Mr. Ilham Aliyev is to be found on the introductory page:

10_Quote Aliyev

And what a wonderful first headline: We Are All Atoms of a Single Sun!

In general I welcome this book – and this for different reasons. It appears to be a peace project of the Azerbaijani Government.

Looking at the chapter about Kurban Said’s Ali & Nino I feel the need to add som editorial remarks.

It can be regarded as a well-meaning compromise to mention both “candidates” for the authorship to Ali & Nino. This balanced way is a progress. Of course I would have preferred if finally the name Çemenzeminli would have been dismissed. But I mustn’t be surprised it wasn’t – rather I should be motivated to finalize my collection of proof why the novel was written by Essad Bey (Lev Nussimbaum). So far Betty Blair has led the field with her infamous publication.

But the time will come and the tide will change – eventually.

I had to smile because Essad Bey AND Çemenzeminli are mentioned equally in the text – however, the life dates given are Essad Bey’s. Nice, thank you!

EPSON MFP image

Page 260 f.: Qurban Said (1905-1942)

The use of the term “core author” is a telltale sign that also Betty Blair’s work was consulted. The term “core author” is coined by her – although it is not clear what is meant by it. Perhaps this: “A man was in love with a woman called ‘N’.” (Don’t worry if you don’t understand this sentence. The right people will understand. Perhaps I’ll go into it at a later date.)

If that’s the core … perhaps. But there were many men being in love with Nigars, Ninos, Narmins, Nazriennes, Nurays, Nermins etc. It is not a unique feature for an Azerbaijani man to be in love with a woman whose name is abbreviated with “N”, nor to kiss her in the Governor’s Garden.

The author of this article quotes Ali’s last name in the way the Vezirov brothers translated it from the Turkish edition in which it was spelt Şirvanşir – the Turkish came from the English spelling: Shirvanshir – and the English came from the German spelling: Schirwanschir.
However, the Vezirov brothers made “Cavanşir” in their Azeri edition from the Turkish version “Şirvanşir”. And here in the reviewed book “Cavanşir” became Javanshir.

Essad Bey created his variation Shirvanshir of the the former ruling Khan’s name Shirvanshah. He also used the names of the other protagonists in the novel not by chance but with intention. This subject will be treated in my forthcoming book.

The few excerpts from the novel here in this volume were not taken from Jenia Graman’s English translation, but were – for obvious reasons – translated into English from the Vezirov brothers’ translation, which, in turn, had been translated from Turkish – Hurriyet, Istanbul 1971 – into Azeri, published in 2004. The Turkish, of course, was in turn a translation from Jenia Graman’s English translation – and her text is of course a translation from German.

So the translation given in this book is is a translation of a translation of a translation of a translation. Fair enough: the particular meaning of the text did survive.

This leads me to an inaccuracy in the bibliography on page 268 (number 50) where it is stated that this translation by the Vezirov brothers was published by Şərq Qərb* in 2006. This is an error. The Şərq Qərb edition of 2006 contains Mirza Mikhailov Khazar’s translation from the German.

EPSON MFP image
Excerpt from the Bibliography

The translation of the Vezirov brothers was published 2004 by the Folklore Institute, Baku (light blue cover) and reprinted in 2007 (dark blue cover) – both editions with Çemenzeminli’s portrait on the frontcover and nowadays very hard to find. I own both of them.

The longer quote and the short quotes on pages 262 and 263 were carefully picked for their multicultural, multireligious and multinational statements. Musa Nagi, a practising Baha’i, is being quoted for his wonderful universal message of love and faith. Then the beautiful girl’s Georgian heritage is praised as much as the wonders of the city of Shusha (to my knowledge the most important city of Nagorno Karabagh) – and how Christians and Muslims used to celebrate together.

All in all the message of this book is peace and this felt strongly. That’s why I believe this book can only be recommended.

Some thoughts a while after writing this review:

It became clear to me that Azerbaijan is feeding from its past. They are putting on these old shoes of multiculturalism and show them in the shining light of the present. But if one thinks that this means, the current social reality is led by freedom, is mistaken.

As each farmer knows he has to prepare the soil in winter so that new produce can grow in spring. However, the current government does not do that. There is no social or political climate in which great minds can unfold to their full potential.

So today I am somewhat tempted to say that the Azerbaijani government is throwing sand in the eyes of the reader with such books.

But it still this one is a beautiful one.

 

* Sorry, no way to use the Azeri letters here in WordPress aesthetically.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my knowledge the first academic book about A&N – and the same time to be taken serious!

Approaches to Kurban Said’s ‘Ali and Nino’

Edited by Carl Niekerk and Cori Crane

 

ISBN 978-1-57113-990-0
Camden House, Rochester, NY, USA

 

Finally I received the long-awaited book! First I had had the chance to read parts of a chapter online on Google Books, so I knew the book wouldn’t disappoint me.

In fact, as Essad Bey’s current German publisher, expert on Essad Bey’s life and particularly on the publication history of Ali & Nino, most considerations of literary science are of lesser importance to me personally. Nevertheless I do love the fact that the novel is taken so seriously – and it should be!

The chapter I was able to read online (at least parts of it) was No. 7: “Love and Politics: Retelling History in Ali and Nino and Artush and Zaur” by Daniel Schreiner. This tickled me especially since I happen to know the author of Artush and Zaur, Alekper Aliyev, and I’m somewhat familiar with the somewhat unfortunate history of his novel. I also read the German and English manuscripts. But that’s a different story.

In this review I am only going to speak about Carl Niekerk’s and Cori Crane’s “Introduction: Ali and Nino as World Literature”, for an introduction must have the biographical and more general info about Kurban Said / Essad Bey.

To be precise: I am not going to speak about the text in general, I want to point out errors and give my opinion on some statements.

I have great respect for the editors, they are scientists of literature, and I welcome this book greatly. As far as I know this is the first attempt to look at Ali & Nino academically – after Gerhard Höpp’s most valuable texts from over 20 years ago.

Since the authors and editors of this volume here hardly have had reliable sources from which to draw waterproof biographical information about Lev Nussimbaum’s / Essad Bey’s / Kurban Said’s life, they are excused for this matter.

Here we go:

On: “INTRODUCTION: Ali and Nino as World Literature”

Comments by Hans-Jürgen Maurer, Frankfurt/Germany

Page 1:

a)

Here the questions are asked: “Why was the novel written in German?”, “Why in 1937?”

Essas Bey was a German writer. We know of some Russian love poems  he’d written in his youth to his great love Zhenia Voronowa. And he may have contributed Russian texts to publications in his early years. Undoubtedly Russian was his first language (spoken in his family – I know picture postcards he’s written in the 1930s to his aunt in Paris). But after his mother’s suicide when he was five years old he learned German from his governess.

As a writer of magazine articles and books he clearly was a German author.

So the question “Why was the novel written in German?” to me sounds like a rethoric question.

Why was the book published in 1937? By that time, Essad Bey was living from hand to mouth again (the authors are hinting at that on page 3). We do not know anything about the motivation for this love story. The inspiration for topics an author chooses at any given time will be a mystery forever. And who cares, really?

So for me the question “why 1937?” is neither a valid one – in my opinion. You write what you’re inspired to write. Why was the Carl Niekerk’s book published in 2017, not in 2015? You see what I mean?

A&N must have been a fairly easy book for Kurban Said to write since he’s “recycled” some earlier material of his in A&N.

It would be more interesting to ask about the resonance the novel had in society during that time of racism (and I could imagine that into the book this question will be discussed). Lucy Tal, the publisher, claimed in the 1970s that the novel had been a flop. I don’t believe that – it saw four editions at the time and they sold the rights for five foreign languages.

b)

In the last line of page 1 is stated that “Das Mädchen vom Goldenen Horn” was published by the same publisher.

No, it was published by Zinnen Verlag.

zinnen_kat_38_beschnitten   zinnen_kat_38_innen_beschnitten

 

Page 2:

a)

Quote: “Tom Reiss argues that the author of Ali and Nino is Lev (or Leo) Nussimbaum, born in Baku in 1905 …

Yes, indeed, Tom says that. But back then we did not have the information we have today. Meanwhile the entry of Lev’s birth was found in Kiev. But that does not even say he was born exactly there, he was just registered in that Kiev Synagogue. Please see my other posting regarding Lev’s birth place.

b)

Quote: “In Berlin, Nussimbaum hid his Jewish identity and adopted the alias ‘Essad Bey’…”

Here it is not clear if this is still Tom Reiss quoted.

Lev did not hide his Jewish identity. There is a letter, written by Hertha Pauli, his later literary agent in Vienna to the New York Times, in which she said he never made a secret out of his ancestry. He even made jokes about it. She was talking of the Vienna years 1933 till 1938 – when it was more dangerous to be Jewish. But even in Essas Bey’s early Berlin years almost all of his friends were Jewish … Alexander Brailow, the Pasternaks, the Voronows, Yasha Zaguskin and many more. It was during his time at the Russian Gymnasium he converted to Islam.  That’s why “Essad Bey” is not an alias but his assumed name after his conversion.

This change of name he took very seriously. Alexander Brailow speaks about it in his unpublished memoirs (on file in my archive) – namely how Essad Bey had to “force” his peers to address him by his new name and how they teased him about it. But likewise Brailow gives a dialogue between Essad Bey and the teacher, where the latter addressed him indeed as “Essad Bey”.

No known source says that he hid his ancestry. Hertha Pauli even said that he often was seen with his father, Abram Nussimbaum – to which she added, that “he looked like one of the quaint figures out of his son’s books”.

c)

Bottom of the page:

Quote: “Accordingly, all earnings associated not only with the German version of Ali and Nino but also with its many translations went to Elfriede von Ehrenfels herself and, after her death, to her heirs.”

This is wrong.

The royalties of 1937 until the early forties went to Elfriede von Ehrenfels – after all, she’s in the contract -, and were surely forwarded to Essad Bey. She then went to Greece where she stayed for many years.

In the meantime the book was forgotten.

When A&N became a bestseller in the 1970s Elfriede was aware of it but she neither claimed nor received a penny. It was clear to her and her ex-husband, Umar Rolf, that Essad Bey was the author. I have old correspondence on file proving this. This evidence will eventually be published in my own book.

Also, we know that Lucy Tal received most of the royalties from the book’s success from 1970 onwards, sharing it only in part with Jenia Graman who was very upset about it. That’s a seperate, complex, story which will be told in my book.

Elfriede was so dis-identified with A&N that she did not even put it into her will. Only about three years after her death the old publishing contract was found in her belongings and the now-Baroness, Mireille, had the court officially enter this contract retroactively into Elfriede’s will (copy on file). The benefactor of Elfriede’s will was Mireille’s daughter Leela. Elfriede’s heir, Leela Ehrenfels, received money after her lawyer enforced her right, but that was not before the final years of the 1980s (and she’s receiving money until today).

So yes, one part of the sentence IS right: after Elfriede’s death, the royalties went to her heirs. However, she died in 1984, but only after their laywer made his point in the late 80ies, the royalties were secured for the Ehrenfels family.

 

Page 3:

a)

Top line.

Quote: “The only evidence that the baroness’s heirs have offered to date in support of their relative’s authorship of Ali and Nino is that the alias “Kurban Said” in 1937 was registered in Elfriede von Ehrenfels’s  name.”

Well, “to date” is unfortunately out-dated. They’re not saying anymore that auntie Friedel wrote the book, they simply point at the fact that the contract bears her name – and this is true.

They’re now putting it it this way: “We do not know who of the two, E.B. and aunt Elfriede, wrote what and how much, but the contract is in her name, so the money is ours.”

That story will have to be told elsewhere.

 

b)

Last third of first paragraph, the question of Çemenzeminli.

I will try to make this as short as possible, because this has become an awfully loaded topic.

After Random House had published the book in April 1971, newspapers printed book reviews of the novel. Two exiled Azerbaijanis in Washington D.C. were astounded at this book, the places, names, streets, history, all were real to them. They tried to make sense of the question who was behind “Kurban Said”. So they simply concluded it could only have been Çemenzeminli – who had been the professor for literature of one of the two now-Washingtoners: Mustafa Türkekul. They wrote to Random House. After the Random House editor Charlotte Mayerson talked to them, she informed the New York Times which wrote about this “discovery”.

But also two other people who were eager newspaper readers, Alexander Brailow (Essad Beys classmate in the Berlin years) and Hertha Pauli (Essad Bey’s literary agent in the Vienna years) wrote to the newspapers and/or the publisher giving their story, both stating that “Kurban Said” was Essad Bey.

Their testimony weighed much heavier from the beginning, but the Çemenzeminli theory was born and slowly made its way eastwards – via Turkey to Azerbaijan.

Çemenzeminli has NOT written the book, no matter what Betty Blair says. As far as I am concerned she can stand on her head, wiggle her ears, and sound the mantra “Çemenzeminli” for the next 100 years – she is mistaken. More about her and her unfortunate publication in my review on this blog.

The whole Çemenzeminli-idea was simply the fabrication of two exiled Azerbaijanis who tried to make sense out of this pseudonym – nothing wrong about it!

After all, they were interested and concerned. Unfortunately they were mistaken. The only real mistake they made is that they later INSISTED it must have been like that, no matter what.

More about this story in my forthcoming book.

 

Page 4:

12th line from above:

Quote: “… he died at the age of 37 on August 27, 1942”

Because he was born on 20 October 1905 he still was 36.

 

Page 5:

Bottom line:

Quote: “… Öl und Blut im Orient, his most successful book …”

Which one of his books his most successful one was remains to be researched. At least in the German speaking countries, Flüssiges Gold (Liquid Gold) was far more successful. That can easily be determined by the copyright page of the 2nd Swiss edition. But one would have to compare the international editions – of which there were quite a few of Öl and Blut, and Flüssiges Gold was never translated into English.

Stalin was perhaps even more successfull.

But nevertheless Öl und Blut im Orient was indeed successful.

 

Page 12:

Footnote 2 and 5, about the Wikipedia entry to Ali and Nino.

I can only refer to my forthcoming criticism of Betty Blair’s plentiful shenanigans.

 

… to be continued …

 

 

Adrienne Landry’s Epic Bummer

Under the link given at the bottom you can find an example of a copied-from-a-copier-from-a-copier article. This time under the guise of “academic expertise”.

We contacted the author, Adrienne Landry, twice. Once by e-mail and once by registered letter to the university. To no avail.

See our “slight” hints for correction above. We are sure we could have found more if we had considered our time not as too precious to be spent on this type of text.

I know the picture shown above looks as if a chicken ran over it. If you want to see my corrections (as incomplete as they may be) in normal size, go to the contact page and drop me a line. I shall be happy to send you a PDF.

 

Original:

https://crees.ku.edu/sites/crees.ku.edu/files/docs/Ali%20and%20Nino_ALandry%20Article.pdf

“The Agony of Essad Bey” DVD

Berlin film maker Mr. Ralf Marschalleck, foremost Essad Bey researcher and expert, has released his almost two-hour-long documentary “Die Schmerzen des Essad Bey” – or, in English, “The Agony of Essad Bey”.

Go here for watching the trailer:

In German: http://www.essadbey-derfilm.de

In English: http://www.essadbey-thefilm.com

(You can order the DVD from those links as well!)

This is a compassionate approach to Essad Bey’s last years he spent in physical suffering and mental torment, isolated from his friends, dependent on the welfare of other people.

Rare interviews with eye-witnesses like 100 year old Maria Paone, Essad Bey’s first cousin Nahoum Hermont or Azerbaijani translator Cherkez Gurbanly – and many more!

Wonderful imagery of Positano, of Baku and the Azerbaijani countryside. Other featured locations are Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Lichtenau in Austria. Atmospheric music and lots of text from the yet-unpublished last manuscript “The Man Who Knew Nothing About Love”.

Poignant, meditative and moving. A truly individual artistic approach to a fascinating life!

Highly recommended!

110 minutes.

Keeping Records Straight

This web site was designed not only to try and keep up with the wealth of misinformation about Essad Bey’s (Kurban Said’s) life and work, but also to point out valuable material.

When it comes to Essad Bey we find a flabbergasting amount of errors and poor quotation moral – not to mention slander and hatred – most of which is based upon the indiscriminate perpetuation of old and insufficient research.

This site will grow over time – as time permits and occasion is provided (we least worry about the latter).

The language of a post is determined by the language of the reviewed text. Only German and English texts can be presented.

If you find errors in grammar, orthography, punctuation and style, kindly bear with the author. Neither is he a native English speaker, nor has he ever lived in an English speaking environment. A friendly yell by e-mail will be greatly appreciated. So will be questions and ideas for further postings.

Thank you!

P.S. Comments will remain disabled for the time being: we are dealing here with facts which are non-negotiable. Just drop us a line if you want to say something: info at verlaghjmaurer dot de

Featured post

Lev Nussimbaum’s Birth Place

No matter if you read one thousand times about Baku as Lev’s birth place – NO, Lev Nussimbaum’s birth was registered in the synagogue of Kiev and is indicated as 20 October 1905. Back then, Kiev was part of the Russian Empire. Today, of course, it is the capital of Ukraine.

It is astonishing how in all German official documents of the 1920s and 1930s “Kiev” is given correctly as Lev’s birth place – bureaucracy obviously can be trusthworthy.

The origin of the Baku-birthplace-blooper is not very difficult to imagine – Essad Bey himself. One could go into this at great length but let’s just resort to the Kiev-fact.

By the way, have you noticed, we are stating here only that his birth was registered in Kiev, that we are NOT saying that he was born there? Where he was born, we do not know. Perhaps in Kiev. Perhaps even during a train ride, as Essad Bey claimed himself.

Just remember, he was NOT born in Baku.

The Russian language document reads:

” … The same time we will inform you that in the above mentioned register [the birth register of the Synagogue of the city of Kiev] we discovered an entry for Nusimbaum, Lev Abramovitch with the following content:

Nr. 684 Lev. Born 20 October (4. Heshvana), the ritual of circumcision was performed on 27 October (11. Heshvara) of the year 1905.

Parents: The Tiflis citizen Abram Lejbusowitsch Nusimbaum, mother Basja Davidowna.

Etc… “

Featured post

“Alias Kurban Said” DVD (click on image)

Have you heard of the documentary “Alias Kurban Said” by Dutch filmmaker Jos de Putter?

If you don’t know it, you might want to consider getting a copy. Scroll down for the link.

You will love this documentary particularly when you’re a fan of Tom Reiss’ book “The Orientalist”. Why? Because you can see here a number of people Tom writes about – or at least their relatives.

As much as I LOVE this film, allow me to make some additional remarks:

This film bears the release date of 2004, which means that the research it presents is from that time and earlier. I suppose the interviews were done in 2003. Back then we didn’t know about Essad Bey’s / Kurban Said’s life as much as we know today.  And this is understandable.

Bear in mind that this beautiful film cannot (and does not) answer the question, who the author of “Ali and Nino” is. Therefore, if you are looking for that answer, you’ll run the risk of being more confused after watching this documentation, because all options are presented equally.

BUT: By now this film is a historical document because many of the interviewed people are no longer with us. And Bruno Ganz’ voice is a special treat!

A detailed commentary for expanded information and knowledge – as well as for rectification of some statements which are more of the adventurous kind (particularly by the Baroness) is in the making and will be published in this Blog.

A recommended DVD!!!

P.S. In case you wonder why the initiative for this documentary came from the Netherlands – of all countries -, the answer is quite simple.

The population of the Netherlands in 2016 was barely 17 million.

Then we see that four (!) different translations of “Ali and Nino” into Dutch exist – to date the world-record!

  • 1938, W. A. Fick-Lugten;
  • 1974, Else Hoog;
  • 1991, Willem Oorthuizen;
  • 2001, Gerda Meijerink.

These four translation have been published in about 9 different editions which saw about 18 print runs. And not to forget an audio book!

By this we easily can assume that this ranks the Netherlands into the top three countries world wide, as far as the popularity of “Ali and Nino” is concerned.

More about this subject in my forthcoming “Ali and Nino” monography. Info about this publication will be published as it becomes available (the info).

 

This is a link to Jos de Putter’s own website: https://www.josdeputter.com/alias-kurban-said

This is a link to Zeppersfilm, where you can buy the DVD. Don’t worry about the Dutch text. The DVD is in German, English, Russian – and with English subtitles.

 

Alias Kurban Saïd (2004)

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