Ali & Nino - Kurban Said
Doug has already given us a synopsis of the story-line and his eloquent impressions. What can I add? A lot of agreement - Ali's thought patterns and value system are so utterly foreign to my squeamish "cultured" mind, and yet... how foreign are they to the world as it is? Are we Europeans really more sophisticated than the Asiatics (who consider it a badge of honor to have killed a romantic rival by biting through his jugular), or are we simply less honest? The geographic region is close to where we are fighting a war as I type, and the circumstances have some eerie parallels: Ali and his countrymen grieve over the loss of their heritage and the westernization of their homeland. They fight for no other reason than pure nationalism - the right to live and govern themselves as they see fit, without interference from anyone who is not of them. Ali's "simple" friend Mehmed Haidar sums it up well: "And it's not a good thing that all these foreigners come and tell us how stupid we are. If we're stupid, that's our business." Finally, the battle to incorporate Azerbaijian into the Soviet states is portrayed as an imperialist desire to subjugate the people and control their rich supply of oil, to exploit this resource in support of the lavish European lifestyle.

All this fighting and politics is only half the story - the other half is Ali and Nino's tumultuous courtship and marriage. They are bound by an unrelenting love for one another ("We just belong together," says Nino), and yet the Euro-Asian conflict is nowhere felt more strongly than in their own hearts. They could live in splendor in Persia, where Nino's captivity to the harem and eunuch nearly drives her mad. Or in Paris, where Ali's soul would become entrapped by tall, peaked buildings and forests, and he would never again see the wide-open desert. So they choose their homeland, a European city in an Asiatic landscape, torn apart by warring factions who want to control it, and live and fight for it until the end of their days together.

Fed to robyn's brain | April 13, 2003