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10 - Seeing the Unseen: Symbolic Writing in Ali and Nino

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2017

Elke Pfitzinger
Affiliation:
received her PhD in 2010 with a thesis arguing that the literary depiction of women is the chief medium of self-reflection in the period of the Enlightenment.
Carl Niekerk
Affiliation:
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Cori Crane
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

THERE IS PLENTY TO SEE in Ali and Nino. Let us therefore have a close look at how this love story of Ali Khan Shirvanshir, a Shi'ite Azerbaijani raised in a traditional Muslim family, and Nino Kipiani, a Christian Georgian raised in a European way, deals with the oppositions between Asia and Europe, Islam and Christianity, and antiquity and modernity. Each of these paired terms depends on its counterpart and thus defines itself at the same time as it gives contour to the other. While pressures from their own cultural backgrounds compel them to embody these opposites, Ali and Nino try to overcome these differences through their love, and seek to create a lasting bond by living together despite all odds. It is their rejection of each of these single spheres that enables them to realize this aim. To be precise, Ali and Nino strive to situate themselves on the “and,” the word that conjoins these binary concepts. Yet, this delicate state of being between clearly defined states and conditions defies definition, making the space hard to grasp, pin down, see, and explain. Already in the first chapter, Ali remarks on “Baku's undecided geographical situation” (6; Die geographische Fragwürdigkeit der Stadt Baku, 8) as located somewhere between Asia and Europe. Throughout the novel, various scenes play with this juxtaposition.

To begin, the scene depicting what leads to Ali's subsequent exile in Daghestan may serve as an example. Ali chases Melik Nachararyan who has abducted Nino and plans to escape with her and several gold ingots to Moscow and later to Sweden. This scene unmistakably presents the division between Asia and Europe that the novel deals with over and over again. On the one hand, there is Nachararyan, who seeks to leave everything Asian behind, driving a European car and claiming to save Nino from being stuck in what he regards as Azerbaijani barbarity. On the other hand, there is Ali, who is tied to the Asian part of Azerbaijan and pursues Nino's abductor, riding a golden horse bred from an ancient stock referred to as the marvel of Karabagh (146/144), a symbol of honor and nobility that further serves as the archaic equivalent of Nachararyan's modern car.

Type
Chapter
Information
Approaches to Kurban Said's Ali and Nino
Love, Identity, and Intercultural Conflict
, pp. 189 - 209
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2017

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