Saturday, June 20, 2009

Book Review (#7 of 2009)

Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer (Revised and Expanded Edition).
Read this in preparation for going to Turkey in August. Kinzer is a former NY Times correspondent who has written several books. Seems like he is a good journalist who learned the language and culture very well and was granted access to important figures.

One passage from his inter-chapter interludes got me particularly excited, Kinzer talks about the countless historically and archeologically significant sites that no one even knows about:
"Even the discovered sites are so remote and widely scattered that many are rarely visited. In Turkey I have followed routes taken by Julius Ceasar and Saint Peter, walked among weird monoliths carved by Hittite sculptors three thousand years ago, crawled into caves used as churches by early Christians and climbed rocky hills up to crusaders' castles. Once I took a drive through eastern Turkey that in the space of just four days took me to unforgettable ruins from half a dozen great cultures."
The book is a pretty quick read and focuses on some of the history and current events (up to last year) that have shaped Turkey profoundly. I learned a lot and highly recommend it. He does a good job of showing the conflicts and contradictions of the nation as well as its hopes.

One thing I gleaned from reading it is that Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, reminds me a lot of Barack Obama. Erdogan was elected under deep suspicion from the old guard and has since tried to prove himself to be a more moderate-leaning democrat while trying to move Turkey forward toward the EU. In fact, I just found a recent Turkish news article off Kinzer's website that quotes Kinzer as saying "Turkey's new identity fits with Obama's view of the world."

4 stars out of 5.

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