Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean Hardcover – 11 Nov 2010
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'Fascinating . . . the strengths of the book are colossal. Philip Mansel's knowledge of the history and culutre of these places is encyclopaedic; he has walked their streets, met the scions of their famous families and penetrated their private archives. His eye for detail is sharp; telling anecdotes are culled from memoirs of all kinds, and the sights and smells of each city are vividly conjured up. At the same time, major developments in political history are explained with clarity and precision.
To anyone who has read Mansel's Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, it will be sufficient to say: read this one too. To anyone who has not, I can only say: read both of them'
'Excellent . . . thought-provoking . . . thoroughly researched . . . One of its strengths lies in the colourful quotations from letters, diaries and travel narratives' (Giles Milton, Literary Review)
'Philip Mansel's impressive return to the Middle East . . . Instead of composing an elegy on a once powerful civilisation, Mansel has given the Levantine world its chronicle, and restored its weight in history' (Jason Goodwin, Spectator)
'Elegiac' (Independent Christmas history round-up)
'With sober judgement but passionate feeling, Mansel has produced a work of formidable scholarship and subtlety, rich in colour, sights, personalities and horrifyingly abundant incident. Levant shows the destructivness of nationalism, offers precepts for the coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews and has wisdom and sensibility all of its own' (Richard Davenport-Hines, TLS)
'Philip Mansel's Levant . . . comes from the pen which, more sharply than any other, has delineated Istanbul. Here, with evocations of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut, all of which he knows well, Mansel gives us history, travel-writing and evocation of place with spare lack of sentimentality, but passionate intensity. The chapters on Beirut, in the light of what is continuing there to this sad hour, are especially poignant. Highly recommended' (A. N. Wilson, New Statesman)
'An engrossing, historical tapestry' (Philip Adair, Scotsman)
'I could scarcely put down this magnificent book, with its galloping narrative, its worldly analysis, sparkling anecdotes and its unforgettable cast of the decadent, the cosmopolitan and the cruel' (Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Financial Times)
'A highly enjoyable and intricately worked account of three great Mediterranean ports . . . [Mansel has] a sharp eye for detail and a deep understanding of the dynamics of traditional empires and societies' (The Economist)
'A masterly work . . . prodigious' (Independent)
'All three [ports, Beirut, Alexandria and Izmir] were remembered in vast amounts of memoirs and official documentation, which Mansel handles with his usual elegance and skill' (Guardian)
The first English-language history of Beirut, Alexandria and Smyrna in the modern ageSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I cannot agree with the previous reviewer as this is by no means a specialist or excessively scholarly work (though it's clearly very well-researched and Mr. Mansel is evidently a scholar) and it can be read without any previous knowledge of the subject (one might want to check on the odd detail but that's easy enough these days with the aid of the Internet), though it certainly helps to have a prior interest in these once-magic Levantine cities. Actually, my only 'criticism' is a very mild one: the cover of the book bears a beautiful picture, but it is of none of the three cities in the book. It's Constantinople.Read more ›
Izmir, Alexandria and Beirut are important names in our minds of Mediterranean peoples and for some uncanny reasons all these three cities seem to be possessed by a similar genius loci, capable of instantly telling something even to the casual traveller. Their histories are masterfully narrated by the author, that often does not refrain from political comments and references to the contemporary age, that I found always to the point. A particular mention must be made of the author's style that, while quite dense, is always readable and logically organised. This is one of the rarest books that I found 100% in agreement with, as the events that shaped up often dramatically the lives of these three cities are always presented in a very convincing way, that leaves very little to different interpretations. I especially liked the easiness with which Mansel managed to describe a confused little war like the Balkans Wars of 1912-13. No mean feat at the light of the importance of this conflict as the catalyst of the Great War. A gorgeous book that must be recommended to everybody with an interest in the history of human endeav
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating. Every bit as interesting as his Constantinople. They now are side by side in my bookcase. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Mark Armstrong
Well written and interesting to read, I found this quite useful in giving me an understanding of how the Eastern Med developed up to the war period. Read morePublished on 10 July 2013 by C. Collins
Evocative, full of detail - but not heavy handed, and a magical way to tour the cities, the history and the people of the Eastern Mediterranean. Read morePublished on 6 Jun. 2013 by Shane Quinn
Interesting book about the unique mixed culture in Smyrna, Beirut, Alexandria and Saloniki before World War 2. Paradise lost to some.Published on 1 Jun. 2013 by pfj
Philip Mansel recreates the history of Smyrna, Beirut and Alexandria which due to the Arab Spring shows us that history repeats itself over and over again.Published on 29 Mar. 2013 by Eva Walters
It is quite fashionable for some current authors to present revised history in pretty packages to be consumed by an unwary public. Read morePublished on 26 Dec. 2012 by Tharsein Hri
brilliant historical account that could hardly be more topical; should surely be read by those 'world leaders' who take it upon themselves to encourage revolution among peoples of... Read morePublished on 16 Feb. 2011 by E. Chaney