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The Turks Today: Turkey After Ataturk Paperback – 11 Apr 2005
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Mango's book is a masterful overview of this period in Turkey's history (Sunday Times)
To his credit, modern Turkey's great champion never acts as its apologist ... He is also impressively up to date ... authoritative and illuminating (Sunday Times)
A swift, potted history of the Turkish political roller coaster. (Financial Times)
Andrew Mango gives excellent descriptions of [Ankara and Istanbul] ... he sees Turkey as a success story ... he writes with elegance and conciseness ... The result, at last, is a book that people on their way to Turkey can pick up and read on the plane ... [Turkey's] recent past deserves a proper, sympathetic examination, and a proper, well-informed book to make this possible. It has, at least, got one. (Literary Review)
Andrew Mango knows Turkey well. (The Spectator)
Andrew Mango's portrait of contemporary Turkey is probably the most successful general introduction to the country for several decades. (The Tablet)
He paints a broad and accessible picture, shrewdly gleaned from his insider-outsider dual perspective ... The Turks Today unfolds as a balanced, coherent primer for serious travellers with an itch to read the hidden lie of the land, and for inquisitive general readers. (Scotland on Sunday)
From the acclaimed biographer of Atatürk, a portrait of the Turkish people and their vibrant society today make this the authoritative work on modern Turkey.See all Product description
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The first part makes rather tough reading. The events immediately following WWI are not covered at all well and then the coverage of the following ~60 or so years of political history is a bit confusing. To be fair to the author, politics in Turkey has been very turbulent so this can be excused, although more coverage of the early 20s and the war of independence would have been helpful.
The second half is devoted to aspects of modern Turkey, including the role of religion, politics, regional & ethnic separatism, economics, Ankara as captial and Istanbul as the country's cultural heart. This was really interesting and exactly what I had purchased the book for.
Other reviewers have commented on the objectivity of some of the content - notably Kurdish issues and the treatment of Armenians. In my opinion, the book is written from a firmly nationalistic perspective and is not altogether unbiased, particularly concerning the Kurds. However, this is quite obvious and can therefore be taken account of by the reader. If it had better maps, I might have given this four stars.
knowledge of country and its people shows throughout the book.
He has an advantage many other authors about the country (e.g.
Stephen Kinzer) do not have: his perfect command of Turkish
(I once met author for a short chat in a conference).
Only weakness of the book is that it is a bit generalistic
about Turkish character. Sometimes, it is reduced to say
that "like everybody else, Turks want to live in comfort".
Otherwise, it is an excellent introduction to Republican Turkey.
I am fascinated with Turkey, and hoped to gain context about what the country faced today. The book starts with a minimally useful history of Turkey from the end of the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, once I saw the way that Mango chose to deal with the Armenian Genocide - he categorizes it as an "incident" the truth of which can never be known, rather than the first ethnic holocaust of the 20C, which it indisputably is - he lost me. At the least, I would expect him to pose the Armenian question as valid and go through the reasoning behind why he chose to dismiss it as insignificant. He is an apologist.
After the superficial history (100 pp), there is a rambling discussion (150pp) of how Turkish institutions and society are evolving. It is so disappointing, so poorly presented, and so superficial that I was disgusted. While there is some useful information, it rambles and never gets to issues that I view as important.
Mango's treatment of the Kurd question is pathetic. He presents the Kurds as crude brutes, whose only legitimate grievances are their neglect in terms of economic development by the central government. He even posits that "casualties" in the decades-long civil war amounted to only 30,000, which is ludicrously low. He never questions what their political issues were or whether the Turks were excessively brutal (which I believe they were), concentrating instead on their leaders, indeed dismissing them as 60s radicals who became "professional revolutionaries" for selfish motives. Now, I am not arguing as a leftist that the Kurdish cause was legitimate, but there is no honest inquiry WHATSOEVER into their motives. He then defends the actions of the central government and its increasing "investments". This is unacceptable propaganda.
Finally, the legal-political issue of "insults to Turkishness", which almost got the brilliant writer (and Nobel Lauriat) Orhan Pamuk thrown into prison for writing about the Armenian genocide, is never even mentioned. I would argue that this inability to question the past is a serious sign of political pathology that Turkey must overcome if it is to enter the EU.
This book is so riddled with flaws and omissions that I am astounded some reviewers find it enlightening or useful. Mango's performance is blankly inexcusable, even outrageous. I wonder if the author is in the pay of the Turkish foreign ministry. This is propaganda, not an honest inquiry.
I cannot recommend anything about this book, even the useful facts. THere must be better, more honest, sources available.