An Azerbaijani patriot, a Jew who fled from the Bolsheviks and Nazis and converted to Islam, and a successful German author: the trio The Disorientalists—consisting of Yuriy Gurzhy, Marina Frenk and Daniel Kahn—follow in the footsteps of Essad Bey, whose biography contains the tensions of an entire century.
Born in Kyiv in 1905 as the son of an oil industrialist and a convicted Bolshevik, Lev Nussimbaum fled with his father from his hometown of Baku via Istanbul to Berlin in 1920 to escape the consequences of the October Revolution. In 1922, he converted to Islam and took the name Essad Bey. Under this name and the pseudonym Kurban Said, he wrote numerous novels, including Ali and Nino about a love affair between a Christian woman and a Muslim man in Azerbaijan. He also wrote biographies of Mohammed and Stalin and began a book on Mussolini, which remained unfinished. As a Jew he was banned from publishing, fled to Italy, and died in Positano at the age of 37. He leaves behind an extensive literary oeuvre and a lot of questions. The Disorientalists explore these in their stage play.
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