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Stephen Kinzer’s rambling walk through the saga of modern Turkey will delight the ordinary reader with an interest in this ‘bridge nation’, while occasionally distressing the historian.

The dedication of this revised version (‘To the People of Turkey’) signals that Kinzer writes 51aed7hll-_sx331_bo1204203200_from the heart and with affection rather than from the discipline and precision one expects of the historian. This is not a criticism of Kinzer’s formidable work but rather an attempt to define its genre. Those who come to Kinzer’s writing—as this reviewer did—through his superb treatment of the Nicaraguan conflicts (The Blood of Brothers) will anticipate the bent of Kinzer’s method.

Kinzer, the erstwhile Istanbul Bureau Chief of the New York Times, does not hold back his own views and even prescriptions for the nation that has become his subject. The book’s earliest pages telegraph this. Published in 2008, the book’s introduction observes that ‘(A) new regime has emerged in Turkey that is likely to govern for years to come. This is good, because this regime draws its strength from the people’s will, but it is also disturbing.’ The first chapter’s opening line introduces us to a personal preference: ‘My favorite word in Turkish is istiklal.’ (more…)

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