Essad Bey
12 Secrets of the Caucasus

With an afterword by bestselling author Tom Reiss

245 pages, paperback
15,6 x 23,4 cm 

Price: € 18,90, SFr 32,10
Price in the USA: 20 Dollars
Price in the U.K.: 12 Pounds Sterling

ISBN: 978-3-929345-37-7

Essad Bey, the sickly son of an oil millionaire from Baku, Azerbaijan, receives permission from his father to spend the summer with his "milk brother” (that is, with whom he was nursed by the same Caucasian nanny) Ali-Bey, passing the holiday in his home village in the wild Caucasus. So the two set out, under the custody of a wise attendant, into an archaic world in which chivalry counted more than buying power and poets were more highly regarded than princes – into a country in which, as a kind of curiosity shop of world history, all that is outlived and forgotten was loyally preserved.

This is Essad Bey’s second book, which was first published in English in 1931. In it the author draws upon his Oriental imaginative powers, conjuring a vast panorama of the Caucasus, its people and customs. The result is a fresh and densely atmospheric work, even if not always laying claim to scientific accuracy. Often adding a touch of imagination, the author succeeds in bringing the heart and soul of this archaic world to life, which he had himself experienced and learned to love as a child.

 

 Essad 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 and alone.

   The 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".