Few people in the West today may know much about Emmanuel Nobel, the Swedish businessman whose family surname is most associated with prizes in the arts, science and geopolitics. In his day he was a rival to John D. Rockefeller, albeit, as author Torgul Bagirov tells it, far less ruthless and rapacious. As his oil and gas company grew to become the world’s largest, he transformed Baku, Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea from a grubby outpost into a sophisticated regional power center. Despite the wide-ranging historical figures that appear in his story – Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II, banker Édouard Alphonse, James de Rothschild, Russian revolutionaries Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky, to name some – for most of the book the focus remains in Baku.
Bagirov, who died in 2019 and is being published posthumously, is well placed to tell this important, if overlooked story, as he was an expert in the Nobel family and global energy issues. He peoples the tale with figures like a (fictional) gorgeous female spy, and there are times when readers may feel they can almost touch one of the bejeweled Fabergé eggs Nobel collected and smell such Azerbaijani delicacies including caviar, shahslik and baklava. Bagirov paces the story nicely, as it grows from a boyhood adventure into coming-of-age tale into ascension to manhood and responsibility. This book’s appearance at a time when climate change threatens to bring THE GREAT GAME of the global petrochemical industry toward an end invests this title with a certain significance. By all appearances Emmanuel Nobel was an uncommonly decent man who treated his workers well and strove to deliver quality to his customers. It may have been his karmic fortune that helped him avoid the ravages of the Russian Revolution and live into his 70s. Perhaps in these times of moral incoherence he and his story can help provide a pinlight of hope for mankind’s future.
In THE GREAT GAME: The Story of How the Oil Wars Began, author Togrul Bagirov vividly describes how the Russian oil business became the world’s biggest under the leadership of Emmanuel Nobel in a historical fiction tale that resonates with reality.
~Rob Patterson for IndieReader