ALI and NINO · @Ali_Nino

8th Jan 2011 from Twitlonger

Betty Blair, Editor of Azerbaijan International, answers Nurida’s 3 Questions
Can Baki Radio Azadliq program

Nurida's questions.
1. In order to research Essad Bey one needs to know at least three languages, Azeri, Russian and German. Which one these three does Blair know?

Nurida Atashi’s questions never cease to amaze us. She has not seen our research, but she does not ask questions related to the content, but rather attempts to attack our qualifications as researchers. So much for the spirit of true scholarship!!!

In the modern age of Internet, we consider Nurida Atashi’s question about language to be irrelevant and obsolete. Nurida mentions three necessary languages—Azeri, Russian and German. But we, at Azerbaijan International magazine, did not limit our research to those three languages. We studied documents in 10 languages: Azeri, Russian, German, English, French, Italian, Turkish, Persian, Georgian and Swedish. And we would suggest that English, Italian, and Georgian are also absolutely necessary as well, not just the three languages that she suggests.

With modern technology available on the Internet such as free translation services like Google Language, one can quickly get a rough translation of the meaning of passages in about 125 languages. This is sufficient enough to identify passages that require further precise and nuanced translation. Then, it was easy for us to find native speakers to help us with all those languages.

Language is a medium. The goal is not the language itself, but the contents embedded in the language. In today’s world, there are many ways to access this. More important than one’s language ability is one’s research skills and determination, curiosity and especially one’s integrity to follow where the research leads and not to bend one’s findings to a predetermined agenda.

English Needed
For example, one needs not only Azeri, Russian and German but since Essad Bey’s narratives describe situations long ago and—for many of us—far away, it is also essential to study the reviews written by Essad Bey’s contemporaries. We dug out about 100 reviews in English from the 1930s written by reputable sources such as New York Times Book Reviews, Saturday Review, as well as British Academic journals.

We discovered that knowledgeable reviewers praised Essad Bey for his ability to write narrative but often smashed him for the irresponsible nonsense that he wrote. In fact, one of the reviews in the New York Times wrote exactly that: “Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense!” to Essad Bey’s description about the Caucasus. The critic concluded that Essad Bey had not succeeded in capturing the spirit of the Caucasus people in his work—Twelve Secrets of the Caucasus.

And how is it that a reviewer of Essad Bey’s Mohammed said the work was so bad and had so many errors that it should never have been written! And that reviewer from the Moslem Review, published in Princeton, New Jersey, made no apologies for his harsh critique and doubted that Essad Bey had ever read the Quran even in translation. Shouldn’t Azerbaijani people know this?

Read more reviews of Essad Bey’s works in AI magazine: “Critics: Fact or Fiction? What Essad Bey’s Contemporaries Said.”

Italian Also Needed
Ahmed Giamil Vacca-Mazzara concocted the tale that Nurida Atashi seems to have wholeheartedly embraced. He denied Lev Nussimbaum’s Jewish identity and claimed that he had been born a Muslim and that his original name—not pen name—was Mohammed Essad Bey.

But many of the statements from Vacca’s 1942 obituary published in the journal Modern Oriente in Italian can be easily refuted by the documents that are found in Azerbaijan’s own History Archives. Various documents and credible sources identify Essad Bey as Lev Nussimbaum. And school records in Baku show that his father’s name was not Ibrahim Arslanoghlu as Vacca insists, but Ibrahim Lebosovich Nussimbaum and that the family was Jewish. Lev was born in Kyiv. His birth (1905) was registered in the synagogue there. His parents were married in Tiflis Synagogue (1904). And his mother’s suicidal death was registered in Baku’s synagogue (1911). All these documents exist.

It becomes clear that VACCA was fabricating tales that Essad Bey was Muslim so that he himself could claim a distant relationship and become the most likely beneficiary to Essad Bey’s book royalties. Vacca claims that he and Essad Bey were related through their great grandfather, a feat that would be difficult to convince others if Lev’s Jewish identity were really known. Seems Vacca was also Essad Bey’s drug dealer according to the diaries (Der Mann) that Nurida Atashi is so eager to translate and publish in Azeri.

See Azerbaijan International 15:2-4: “Archives: What A Hoax. Vacca’s Sensational Biographical Account of Essad Bey.”

Georgian language also necessary
Tamara Injia, a Georgian philologist, has clearly shown in her research that the novel Ali and Nino has taken entire sections by Grigol Robakidze, Georgian writer, to develop parts related to travels in Tiflis and Iran. So, add Georgian to the necessary languages. We had Injia’s book translated from Georgian to study her claims and we agree with her conclusions. Clearly some sort of plagiarism has taken place related to these travel sections.

See Azerbaijan International 15:2-4: “Frequently Asked Questions about the Authorship of Ali and Nino.” FAQ 18.

So, in our opinion, more critical than having 10 languages under one’s belt is the approach to research and the ability to tap reliable resources. These days the Internet facilitates access to very obscure information and enables incredibly close cooperation with others.

2. Six-year research means lots of money. Who sponsors Blair?

Again, Nurida is emphasizing means, not substance. She’s worried about money, more than content. Our research was propelled by a desire to understand the truth about the authorship of Ali and Nino and to get to the bottom of the issue. Most of the research took place in front of computers and at libraries of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which is located less than three miles away from our U.S. office.

And with Internet and computer research tools, the world is at one’s fingertips. Incredible research and relationships can be made via Internet these days. One does not need to take a single step outside one’s home to do it.

For example, Nurida claims that she went to Zurich to get a copy of Essad Bey’s Final Will, which is archived in the Central University Library. But we gained access to this same document via a quick email to the librarian there.

Those who sponsored the publication of our research are shown as advertisers in our two separate issues (English and Azeri) for this triple, 364-page issue of Azerbaijan International. These are companies which have known us and grown to trust us over the past 15-17 years of our publication. Everything is open and transparent. Our research was not sponsored by the Azerbaijani government as Nurida Atashi has charged.

3. What is her purpose in making enemy of Azeri people out of Essad Bey? To introduce him as a person deprived of national feelings, and who doesn't love Azerbaijan?

The purpose of our research is not to “make Essad Bey an enemy of the Azerbaijan people.” Not at all. We merely dug into the documents and discovered that what we originally thought to be true—that Essad Bey was the author of Ali and Nino—wasn’t true at all.

It is impossible for him to be the CORE author. And thus, we began to discover the true character of Essad Bey (Lev Nussimbaum) and we found that many of his works are fraudulent. Shouldn’t the Azerbaijani people know such findings? Why should they believe all the myths and legends that have been concocted about Essad Bey? Why to make heroes out of opportunists? Even contemporaries called Essad Bey a swindler of tales. Shouldn’t the Azerbaijani people know these things? If they decide not to embrace him, it’s their decision. Our goal was to reveal the truth.

Simply, Essad Bey was primarily motivated to build his reputation as a prolific author and in making money off the ignorance and naivete of European and American readers. Clearly, many of the 16 books and 140 plus articles that were published under his name did not originate with him – just as Ali and Nino was not his original work.

The true story can best be understood in the framework of the German term, “The Business of Literature.” Making money was the driving force. Publishers even exploited Essad Bey, passing works to him that he embellished and sold under his “famous name”.

Basically, Essad Bey didn’t give a hoot about truth and many of his contemporaries attest to this. For example, he did not even graduate from high school but yet he went around telling people he had a doctorate degree.

Don’t the Azerbaijani people deserve to know the truth and be spared the fictional aura that surrounds his name? Essad Bey himself had little affection for Azerbaijan and was prone to take on any identity of any nationality to propel the sales of his books. Does such a character deserve a statue in the main square of Baku? Does he deserve that his grave be carted back from the Italian city from which he escaped further and further away from Azerbaijan?

Read Frequently Asked Questions in our issue. There are 157 questions with 543 footnotes. You will see that Essad Bey rarely writes about Azerbaijan and when he does, it is mostly pure nonsense. So it is not our fault if the Azerbaijani people do not embrace Essad Bey. He’s the one who chose his own path and it only led away from Azerbaijan, not towards it. Read our highly documented research in our 360 plus pages which has more than 1000 footnotes.

Betty Blair,
Editor of Azerbaijan International
Dec 17, 2010

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