12 Secrets of the Caucasus
With an afterword by bestselling author
245 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
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.
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".