11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Tough read, worthwhile but tough.,
This review is from: Genghis Khan (Paperback)
This book is quite unusual in terms of a historical non-fiction. It is a mix between historical fact and John Man's journey around Asia to better understand the lives of the Mongolian people and to better understand the environment that Genghis Khan would have lived in. This is quite an affective mix and coupled with the writers easy style does make this a much easier book to read.
Not that it is a particularly easy book to read however...
When I tried to think of a way of summing up how this is a tough book to read I struggled, I guess in no small part this is down to the subject matter we are dealing with. On the one hand Genghis was a liberator, a mouth piece of god, an inspiration to millions and a military genius to boot. On the other he was a butcher, a man who wreaked more havoc than any man before him and all but a few ahead of him. This juxtaposition for me was the toughest part of reading this book. How could I keep going when the author so clearly reveres "The Khan"? For example, Man compares the slaughter of Jews at Auschwitz to the Slaughter of Merv by the Mongols. In comparable scale he acquiesces they are the same in nature. However he mentions that Mongols aims were truly strategic rather xenophobic. Now at no point am I saying he agrees with the killings, he does however attempt to justify them.
There are other examples, in order to keep to the tradition of not spilling any blood of royalty when killing them, Man recounts a story told of a story of Prince Mstislav and his allies who are tied up and laid down on the ground, where they become the foundation for heavy wooden platform that is Subedai (One of Genghis' generals) dines upon with his allies whilst the prince suffocates to death. How very noble...
There are truly horrific examples of the brutality in which Genghis ruled, but also no short fall in examples of the high regard in which he held loyalty and bravery. John Man does bring out both sides of his life, coupled with this is the incredible journey that Man himself took around the wilds of Mongolia, this is a treat for the reader as it shows a political climate that although much changed is still in as much conflict as it has ever been in. This is a tough book to swallow but I firmly believe we shouldn't hide the past, he should understand it and hope it never happens again. I mean you never know, a man like Genghis Khan could be the leader the current world needs.