Blood and Oil in the Orient
My childhood in Baku and my hair-raising escape
through the Caucasus
With an afterword by
bestselling author Tom Reiss
268 pages, paperback
15,6 x 23,4 cm
Price: € 18,90
Price in the USA: 20 Dollars
Price in the U.K.: 12 Pounds Sterling
An Autobiography like Something
Out of the Arabian Nights
this lively and witty autobiography, Essad Bey, a.k.a. Lev Nussimbaum, tells us
the story of his childhood in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and of his
flight from the Russian Revolution in 1917, which brought him first straight
through the Caucasus, then to Istanbul – where this book concludes – and
finally to Berlin.
When Essad Bey speaks of the
people of the Caucasus and their customs so strange to us, a sort of
anthropological cabinet of curiosities unfolds before our eyes, and we cannot
help but be astonished. All the while, through his affectionate and sometimes
openly ironic words, even the excesses of the Revolution sound like children’s
pranks and his hair-raising escape like an adventure novel.
Blood and Oil in the Orient
is an informative and entertaining book; in the 1930s, it was a bestseller in
the U.S. and Germany.
About the author:
Bey, 1905 -1942
Essad Bey was born in October,
1905 as Lev Nussimbaum, probably in Kiev. He grew up in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. His father
Abraham, a Ashkenasic jew born in Tbilisi/Georgia was an oil well owner, his mother a
Jewish-Russian revolutionary and acquaintance of
Stalin. She committed suicide in 1911. Lev was about 5 years old.
From his nanny, Frau Alice
Schulte, he learned Germany early on – the language in which he would become a
famous author many years later. Their flight 1917 from the Revolution led Nussimbaum
(aged 12 at the time) father and son through Constantinople, Rome and Paris to Berlin, where
they arrived in 1921 and were to settle. Here Lev attended the Russian Gymnasium and took evening
courses in Turkish and Arabic at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität. In 1922 he
converted to Islam and began calling himself Essad Bey.
Beginning in 1926, Essad Bey
wrote a number of articles for "Die literarische Welt" and several other German
magazines. In 1932 he married Erika Loewendahl, the daughter of shoe
wholesaler Walter Loewendahl. The couple lived for a short time in Berlin, New
York, and Los Angeles. In 1937 the marriage fell apart as Erika left her
husband for the author René Fülöp-Möller. The separation created a scandal in
the international press and had a devastating effect on Essad Bey’s psyche.
Between 1931 and 1937, Essad
Bey wrote at least sixteen books, all of which were translated into several
languages. Among them were a biography of Stalin (1931), Czar Nicholas (1935),
Resa Shah (1936), and Lenin (1937, published only in Italian). His biography of
Mohammed (1932) is still available today and captivates us through the density
of its atmosphere.
His first book, the present
autobiography "Blood and Oil in the Orient" (1929), was a bestseller in Germany
and the U.S. For his friend George Sylvester Viereck, he wrote a biography of
Kaiser Wilhelm II that was published only in English, bearing the title “The
Kaiser on Trail” and under Viereck’s name.
Another of Lev Nussimbaum’s
pseudonyms was Kurban Said. He published the two novels “Ali and Nino” (1937)
and “The Princess of the Golden Horn” (1938) under this name. The debate about
the identity of the pseudonym “Kurban Said” has been satisfactorily settled by
Essad Bey’s biographer, Tom Reiss. Until then, speculations had also ranged
from the Austrian baroness Elfriede von Ehrenfels-Bodmersdorf to the
Azerbaijani Yusuf Vesir Chemenzeminli.
In 1937, Lev Nussimbaum fled
Germany to Switzerland and settled in Positano, on the Italian Amalfi Coast, in
1938. Attempts to become the official biographer of Mussolini were
unsuccessful. He died in 1942 at the age of 37, after a serious illness poor
American author Tom Reiss published Lev Nussimbaum’s highly-regarded biography,
“The Orientalist,” in 2005. It became a bestseller in the U.S. and has up until
now been translated into 14 languages. In February 2008 it appeared in
German with Berlin’s Osburg Verlag under the title "Der Orientalist".