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Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 - The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance [Paperback]

Giles Milton
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 May 2009

On Saturday 9th September, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. What happened over the next two weeks must rank as one of the most compelling human dramas of the twentieth century. Almost two million people were caught up in a disaster of truly epic proportions.

PARADISE LOST is told with the narrative verve that has made Giles Milton a bestselling historian. It unfolds through the memories of the survivors, many of them interviewed for the first time, and the eyewitness accounts of those who found themselves caught up in one of the greatest catastrophes of the modern age.


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Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 - The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance + Twice a Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey + Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews
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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034083787X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340837870
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Giles Milton . . . has crafted an inspiration for those of us who believe that history can be exciting and entertaining (The Times)

Giles Milton's brilliant re-creation of the last days of Smyrna (Sunday Times)

Giles Milton's powerful narrative of the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe is compelling . . . incidents of heroism among the carnage, give this tale of ethnic cleansing a rare immediacy. (Telegraph)

Engrossing . . . Milton's book celebrates the heroism of individuals who put lives before ideologies (Independent)

The sack of that famously cosmopolitan city . . . makes a compelling story. It is also a strikingly neglected one . . . Milton's considerable achievement is to deliver with characteristic clarity and colour this complex epic narrative . . . Milton brings commendable impartiality to his thoroughly researched book . . . PARADISE LOST proves a timely examination of a defining moment in the history of ethnic and religious conflict (Sunday Telegraph)

PARADISE LOST is a timely reminder of the appalling cost of expansionist political ambitions; it tells a fascinating story with clarity and insight (Economist)

PARADISE LOST is essential reading for anyone who cares about the past - and present - of today's Europe, indeed of civilisation itself (Adam LeBor, Literary Review)

Giles Milton . . . has written his best book to date (Scotland on Sunday)

[Milton is] a master of historical narrative (The Sunday Times)

Milton has a terrific eye for the kind of detail that can bring the past vividly to life off the page . . . restores an exotic lustre (Spectator)

Milton is a great storyteller . . . he conjures mood from dry parchment (Express on Sunday)

Milton has written a grimly memorable book (William Dalrymple, Sunday Times)

Book Description

A powerful tale of destruction, heroism and survival by the bestselling author of NATHANIEL'S NUTMEG.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Meynell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Every war has its unintended consequences, and the First World War was no exception. Perhaps its greatest aftershock was the collapse of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire, a fact that perfectly illustrates the complexities of a war that had been sparked by a political assassination in Bosnia and the aggression of Germany's Kaiser Bill. After years of the relatively quiet co-existence of different ethnic and religious groups, the new Turkish republic was carved out in the flames of terrible ethnic tension and indeed cleansing. No city represented the agony of this process more than Smyrna (modern Izmir). Smyrna had been the grandest of cities - huge, ancient, fabulously wealthy with department stores and opera houses, idyllic landscapes and above all, great diversity.

Giles Milton has written a well-crafted, multi-layered account of its fall in 1922. This involved painstaking research on the day-to-day events surrounding its destruction that terrible September - but without the wider national and international perspective, this would have remained simply a remote if chilling episode in increasingly distant history.

But Smyrna's fall was a crucial moment for so many reasons:

- it explains or illustrates so many of the geopolitical tensions that exist today: between Greeks and Turks (especially in Cyprus); within former Yugoslavia; the debates about Turkey joining the EU. Atrocities and follies were not isolated to one side or another - Greeks invaded Asia Minor in vain pursuit of the "Megali Idea" (the big idea). They sought to avenge the centuries of Ottoman suppression of Greek culture in the region by uniting the 1000s of ethnic Greeks with Athens.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced account of a dreadful episode 12 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback
Milton is to be congratulated on producing a well-written book, using a wide variety of sources. His narrative is gripping, yet he does not allow his story to become sloppy or sensational. He calmly reports eye-witness accounts and allows the reader to come to his/her own conclusions. All of this set within a wider context which allows the general reader to make sense of the tortuous politics of this part of the world in the years during and shortly after the First World War. A splendid achievement.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book with universal value 11 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback
If you want to understand Turkish-Greek relations you should read "Paradise lost" along with "Twice a stranger" of Clark and "Echoes frome the green zone" from Papadakis. Paradise lost shows how crazy political choices can lead to destruction of millions of lives. The book concerns the destruction of the Greek and Levantine presence in Anatolia and Smyrna. But its value is universal: nationalism (Greek and Turkish), fanatism, religious rivalries, can lead to tragedies. Who started and who is responsible? The book does not give any answer but the conclusion I drew is universal: human stupidity and criminal political leaders, crowds ready to become barbaric,the yesterday victims becoming the monsters of today.

A big bravo to Milton who, after L. Smith's "Ionian vision" wrote "The Book" on 1922. Every Greek and Turk should read it and try to think on peace and friendship for the future.

Aristotelis Gavriliadis
Brussels
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey into horror - vilains and heroes 9 Sep 2013
By G. M. Sinstadt VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In the battle for supremacy in Asia Minor between Greece and Turkey, the city of Smyrna (now Izmirs suffered horrendous collateral damage. Until the outbreak of the first World War, Smyrna was a predominantly happy multinational community. Largely thanks to benevolent Levantine employers, the inhabitants prospered; thanks to that prosperity, the Levantine families led an existence reminiscent of the palmy days of the Raj. On the outbreak of war, Britain and her allies backed Greece while Turkey chose the German side. What ensued was a campaign of ethnic cleansing from which no nation emerged with credit,despite the heroic endeavours of several unsung individuals.

This seems to have been a small corner of British history that had not been chronicled until Giles Morton's detailed account in Paradise Lost. Drawing on official papers, newspaper reports, contemporary letters and diaries, and personal interviews, Milton paints a vivid picture of the descent from serene coexistence into the inferno. There are times when the book in somewhat artless style piles atrocity upon atrocity, but it is this very repetition which hammers home the true extent of the tragedy.

Kemal Ataturk's bloodthirsty role as the founder of modern Turkey is a morality talein itself. Lloyd George's seat-of-the-pants direction of Britain's involvement was far from this nation's finest hour.

Those who deserve credit, do so for personal courage. They include Rahmit Bey, the Ottoman Governor of Smyrna; George Horton, the American consul whose diaries illuminate the narrative; and above all two other 'ordinary' Americans - Asa Jennings, a YMCA employee, and Esther Lovejoy - who masterminded an astonishing evacuation that saved the lives of literally thousands of innocent refugees.

Paradise Lost is a story that needed to be told. We must be grateful that is has been told so well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another story from the century of conflict 2 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback
Smyrna 1922 is upsetting to read: there is always a disaster lurking in the background, and when it happens it is horrible indeed. The consequences of war are all too often visited on innocent civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this, the closing chapter of the Ottoman Empire, is no exception.

Giles Milton once again has picked out a little bit of history and expanded a complete story out of it (Nathaniel's Nutmeg is an example of a tiny hinge of fate, for instance). This time around, the focus is on Smyrna (Izmir), once a thriving trade port on the coast of Asia Minor. The Levantines - European expats - ran a mercantile community, employing a large chunk of the local populace. Smyrna was a mixed city, with Greeks, Armenians and Turks, as well as the Europeans, and a thriving American expat community.

All this was lost with the disastrous expedition into Anatolia by the Greek army in 1922. There is an early wrinkle in with the revocation of the concessions - trade relaxations - on which this foreign fortune was built, with this being a source of apparent pride among local Turks, but this merely silent foreshadowing of the disaster to come.

In between, we see Smyrna during WWI under Rahmi Bey, and under Greek annexation in 1919. Through all this there is a "ancien regime" feeling in the air: old power and wealth about to be lost in a sea of blood. As it turns out, the blood was largely shed by the servants of the Levantines - a point deftly made by Milton - and Smyrna stands a proxy for the genocide of the period, by Greek and Turk alike.

Others have covered the facts of the book neatly; I won't all over again in any greater detail than I have above.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
No comment as brought as a present
Published 20 days ago by maggieb
5.0 out of 5 stars "Don't it always seem to go......"
This is a superb read that helps explain current day animosity between Turkey & Greece. Sadly our current crop of politicians appear to be making similar mistakes today....
Published 1 month ago by Mr S R Dowsett
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
thank you
Published 3 months ago by rosie2
5.0 out of 5 stars Another superb Giles Milton
All sorts of eye-openers for me. I knew that the massacre happened and that prior to it Venezelos had been making unrealsitic demands at Versailles and Smyrna was one that was... Read more
Published 5 months ago by DB
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read in years.
Wonderful descriptions of both life and the terrain which brought the events to life. His detailed research of events from nearly 100 years ago offers a fascinating insight into a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mrs. G. V. P
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book
Doesn't often happen that you read something as well written as this. Well researched and heart-rending in detail. First rate.
Published 7 months ago by rogiain
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow - what a book !
Absolutely could not put this book down.
It's written in such a wonderful easy descriptive style that I was caught up in the lives of the Smyrna inhabitants right from the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by D. High
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read!
I read this after reading The Thread by Victoria Hislop and Paradise Lost completed the picture. It is a very good description of the fall of Smyrna. Highly recommended.
Published 12 months ago by Patricia Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars FAR AWAY FROM REALITY...UNFORTUNATELY, WASTE OF TIME...5 STAR GOES TO...
Remember every war has its own rules,
Remember not the Turks,but Greek troops set the fires around Smyrna,just before the city has gone... Read more
Published 12 months ago by S. Tutuncu
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking historical account of the destruction of Smyrna (Izmir)
I chose this book having read the fictional account of the same events covered by Louis de Bernieres in 'Birds without Wings'. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Marilyn Rodd
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