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Book Group — October 14, 2014

Dear Book Lovers, 
 
BAIN’s next Book Club will be on Tuesday, October 14th
Meeting Details:
Book:  The Orientalist (2005) by Tom Reiss.
Time: 3:30 p.m.
NEW Location: Café In Boca al Lupo (fair warning: this place has excellent desserts so make sure to leave some room for postre!)
Address: Bonpland 1965 – Palermo (click here for map)
RSVPloucrie@yahoo.com (Julia)
Come enjoy your afternoon coffee with us, and participate in a lively discussion with other BAIN members (feel free to join us even if you don’t manage to read this month’s book–it’s totally fine).
 
This month we will be reading The Orientalist (2005) by Tom Reiss, a non-fiction book.
 
Part history, part cultural biography, and part literary mystery, The Orientalist traces the life of Lev Nussimbaum, a Jew who transformed himself into a Muslim prince and became a best-selling author in Nazi Germany. Born in 1905 to a wealthy family in the oil-boom city of Baku, at the edge of the czarist empire, Lev escaped the Russian Revolution in a camel caravan. He found refuge in Germany, where, writing under the names Essad Bey and Kurban Said, his remarkable books about Islam, desert adventures, and global revolution, became celebrated across fascist Europe. His enduring masterpiece, Ali and Nino–a story of love across ethnic and religious boundaries, published on the eve of the Holocaust–is still in print today.
 
Tom Reiss spent five years tracking down secret police records, love letters, diaries, and the deathbed notebooks. As he tracks down the pieces of Lev Nussimbaum’s deliberately obscured life, Reiss discovers a series of shadowy worlds–of European pan-Islamists, nihilist assassins, anti-Nazi book smugglers, Baku oil barons, Jewish Orientalists–that have also been forgotten.  The result is a thoroughly unexpected picture of the twentieth century–of the origins of our ideas about race and religious self-definition, and of the roots of modern fanaticism and terrorism.  Written with grace and infused with wonder, The Orientalist is an astonishing book.
The book, as always, is available electronically. (Click on title above for the kindle version on Amazon).
For those who like to prepare in advance, here’s how our reading schedule is looking for the upcoming months:
 
November 11th: The Tunnel (1948) by Ernesto Sabato
(*This novel by Argentine Ernesto Sabato is quite short (ca. 120 pages), so those who want to practice the Spanish might venture to read it in the original as well.)
 
An unforgettable psychological novel of obsessive love, The Tunnel was championed by Albert Camus, Thomas Mann, and Graham Greene upon its publication in 1948 and went on to become an international bestseller. At its center is an artist named Juan Pablo Castel, who recounts from his prison cell his murder of a woman named María Iribarne. Obsessed from the moment he sees her examining one of his paintings, Castel fantasizes for months about how they might meet again. When he happens upon her one day, a relationship develops that convinces him of their mutual love. But Castel’s growing paranoia leads him to destroy the one thing he truly cares about.
 
 
December 9th: The Human Stain (2000) by Philip Roth
It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret. But it’s not the secret of his affair, at seventy-one, with Faunia Farley, a woman half his age with a savagely wrecked past–a part-time farmhand and a janitor at the college where, until recently, he was the powerful dean of faculty. And it’s not the secret of Coleman’s alleged racism, which provoked the college witch-hunt that cost him his job and, to his mind, killed his wife. Nor is it the secret of misogyny, despite the best efforts of his ambitious young colleague, Professor Delphine Roux, to expose him as a fiend. Coleman’s secret has been kept for fifty years: from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman, who sets out to understand how this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, had fabricated his identity and how that cannily controlled life came unraveled. Set in 1990s America, where conflicting moralities and ideological divisions are made manifest through public denunciation and rituals of purification, The Human Stainconcludes Philip Roth’s eloquent trilogy of postwar American lives that are as tragically determined by the nation’s fate as by the “human stain” that so ineradicably marks human nature. This harrowing, deeply compassionate, and completely absorbing novel is a magnificent successor to his Vietnam-era novel, American Pastoral, and his McCarthy-era novel, I Married a Communist.
 
If you have any questions about the titles or meetings of the Book Club, please contact me at loucrie@yahoo.com
 
Hope to see you there!
Julia

 

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