Ali and Nino

Ali and Nino

A Love Story

by Kurban Said

translated by Jenia Graman

Anchor Books, 277 pp., $13 (paper)

War is terrifying, brutal, banal, and senseless, but it almost always serves a good love story, influencing and bringing into sharp relief the thrilling tale of love in a world gone suddenly cold with hate. Ali is a young man born into the old and illustrious family of the Shirvanshirs, a Mohammedan who loves the vast stare of the desert almost as much as he loves Nino Kipiani, a beautiful, strong-willed Christian Georgian princess. Evenly matched in spirit, their many cultural differences cannot keep them apart -- not the initial reluctance of their families, not their incompatible religions, not a bitter blood-feud -- nothing, that is, until the last bitter battle against the Bolsheviks in 1920, which ends young Ali's life. Long popular in the Mideast, Nino and Ali is much more than a good read. Incorporating history, and legends dating from before Alexander the Great, the novel is cinematic and richly textured in detail, bringing to life the melding and division of cultures at the turn of the century. Early in the novel Ali says, "The desert is the gate to a mysterious and unfathomable world." The same might be said about love and war.

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