Ali and Nino is a very charming story about love that was written by Kurban Said. The novel talks about the tale of an Azerbaijani youth who has affection for a Georgian princess. Most importantly, the novel is a quest for reconciliation and truth in the world of conflicting practices and beliefs between the East and the West, male and female, the aged and the youth and between Christianity and Islam. A descendant of a splendid Muslim family, Ali Khan Shirvanshir gets his education from Russian boys’ high school. Ali gets exposed to Western cultures and values in school while his father is still an Asian. His love for the Georgian princess, Nino who is from a Christian tradition in the European world prompts Ali to go against his culture and beliefs. The book talks about this love between Ali and Nino. It also includes expeditions to mountain villages in Georgia, Persia, Daghestan Shusha and Tbilisi. It is a story filled with nostalgia and melancholic circumstances.
Ali is committed to marry Ali after leaving school. Initially, Nino is hesitant until Ali vows that she will not be forced to wear the veil. Amazingly, Ali’s father supports this marriage. Nino’s father however endeavors to postpone the marriage. The book takes a melodramatic turn when Nino is kidnapped by an Armenian who was thought to be Ali’s friend. Ali pursues the Armenian on horseback and manages to catch up with him and kills him. He spares Nino which is also another instance showing Ali going against the Islam tradition. To escape vengeance from the Armenian family, Ali takes off to Daghestan. After several months, Nino meets Ali in a hill town and they marry instantly. Due to the situation in which they marry, they live in abject poverty. With the turmoil in the Russian Revolution, Ali Khan is forced to make hard ideological decisions.
As the Ottoman Army draws close to free his native Baku, Ali watches the advances closely. Baku is recaptured as Ali and Nino move to Persia. At Tehran, Ali recalls his Muslim roots. Nino is vitally unhappy in the harem confinement. With the establishment of the Azerbaijan Republic, Nino and Ali get back and end up being cultural ambassadors of the new Republic. Ali is appointed as an ambassador to France but he declines to take up the offer. This idea was arranged by Nino. Ali turns down the offer since he fears he may not be happy in France. After the Red Army descends on Ganja, Ali is armed ready to defend the Republic. At the same time, Nino takes off to Georgia together with their child. Unfortunately, Ali dies in war as Bolsheviks take over the country. This in reality led to the institution of the Soviet supremacy of Azerbaijan from 1920-1991.
Actually, Kurban Said is just a pseudonym used in the novel. The actual writer’s name is Yusif Vazir Chamanzaminli. ‘Kurban’ refers to sacrifice. It has Arabic and Hebrew language Semitic languages. Kurban is a conventional religious concept prevalent to Middle Eastern cultures. On the other hand, Said means fortunate or joyful. Therefore, the name could be used to mean a joyful sacrifice. Apparently, the name has been used refer the anticipated events of happiness in the novel. Ali sacrifices himself and his culture in pursuit of happiness and joy. However, the story contradicts the story line with an unhappy ending. There is really nothing to be happy about as the novel is characterized with a lot of misfortunes and the main character finally dies in battle. The end seems miserable. Chamanzaminli was a Seyid and it is alleged that he is a descendant of Mohammed on either sides of his family.
Kurban is pronounced as ‘Gurban’. Chamanzaminli had previously written a short tale with the ‘Gurban’ title. Chamanzaminli regarded himself as ‘gurban’ in connection to the Azerbaijan Soviet authorities during 1925. This was the time when he sought permission to go back home from Europe since he had been given a diplomatic mission overseas representing the Azerbaijan Republic government that opposed Bolsheviks. Chamanzaminli discovered that historical situations made him a probable politics’ victim since most of the officials of the Azerbaijan Republic government were killed after Bolsheviks came to power.
A bigger part of the novel is planned and set in the old city of Baku and more specifically during the eve of the revolution of Bolshevik that took place between 1917 and 1918. The book was written during the historical context between 1920 and 1991 at a time when Azerbaijan Republic government opposed Bolsheviks. Racism and cultural differences had a major influence on people’s decisions during that time. Chamanzaminli was influenced by the occurrences of the time to write novel. The book helps in unveiling the challenges and historical events of the time as highlighted by the author.
The book includes a number of overlapping themes. It depicts issues love, relationships and marriage and they manner in which they are influenced by themes of race, culture and religion. The pursuit of happiness also comes out evidently in the book. Ali’s pursuit of Nino will stop at nothing but winning her love. No amount of cultural practices and religion would stop him. He is even ready to do the unimaginable by killing his Armenian friend when he realizes that he wants to snatch Nino from him. The Islam traditions do not allow him to spare Nino but he does. The book and the name of the author focus on the pursuit of happiness. Even though the book brings out mixed feelings about happiness, multiculturalism has been used as an object of happiness. The author goes past the cultural provisions of Islam and presents happiness as something beyond just being a social good.
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