From the back cover "the first picaresque novel ever written and the inspired precursor to works as various as "Vanity Fair" and "Huckleberry Finn." BFrom the back cover "the first picaresque novel ever written and the inspired precursor to works as various as "Vanity Fair" and "Huckleberry Finn." Banned by the Inquisition after publication in 1554...."...more
A fascinating story that I knew a little bit about having lived in Turkey 45 years ago, having studied Turkish and Middle Eastern history, and also haA fascinating story that I knew a little bit about having lived in Turkey 45 years ago, having studied Turkish and Middle Eastern history, and also having seen at least one Turkish movie about the population exchanges between Greek and other Christians living in Turkey after WW I and Muslims living outside Turkey in lands that formerly had been part of the Ottoman Empire.
"Twice a Stranger" refers to the migrants having been left "strangers" in the homelands of their forefathers and "stranger" in the lands they were sent to.
Basically, the Ottoman Empire was on the losing end of WW I and all the territory outside Anatolia and a small piece of eastern Thrace - the peninsula west of Istanbul between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea were lost to the Turks. The victorious countries of Europe were busy parcelling out the former pieces of the Ottoman Empire - Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Greece and other areas in the Balkans. Greeks had been living in Anatolia for over 2500 years and became Christians during the Byzantine Empire. When the Turks came west from northern Central Asia, starting about 1000 years ago, they eventually came to Anatolia. Gradually in the 14th and 15th centuries the Ottomans began to conquer other Turkish groups and consolidated power in Anatolia. In 1453 they conquered Constantinople. In any case, the Ottomans kept moving west through Greece and the Balkans and were defeated at the gates of Vienna in 1683. They held sway in what eventually became Yugoslavia for more than 200 years. The remaining Muslims in Europe are the Bosnians and Albanians, the rest of the area being inhabited by Catholics in the north and Orthodox Christians in the south and east.
The upshot was that in the territory that is now the country of Turkey in 1920 had several populations of Christians, excluding the Armenians in the east who had mostly been expelled and or killed by 1920. The "Greek" i.e. Orthodox Christians included large groups in the eastern Black Sea and other Black Sea areas, the city of Istanbul, areas in central, western, and southern Anatolia. Many of these "Greeks" only spoke Turkish. Elsewhere there were Greek speaking Muslims in Crete, some of the Aegean islands, and Thrace and southern Bulgaria. The European powers met in Lausanne at the end of 1923, after the Greek army was roundly defeated at Izmir (Smyrna) with a huge loss of life, especially to fleeing Christians. There it was decided that all the Christian populations should be removed to Greece and that the Muslim populations be removed to Turkey.
This book is about this history, how the process evolved in different places, how the resettled populations eventually adapted to their new homes. But even after 80 years there are survivors of these forced migrations and their stories are both heartbreaking and life affirming. There were political consequences both for Turkey and for Greece. (And today, in 2012, Turkey is thriving economically and Greece is on the financial ropes.) It's a bit slow going, a bit academic, but full of history and story and information.
The novel "Birds Without Wings" is part of this story.
After Stewart walked across Afghanistan in January 2002 ("The Places in Between") he rejoined the British Foreign Office and volunteered to work as paAfter Stewart walked across Afghanistan in January 2002 ("The Places in Between") he rejoined the British Foreign Office and volunteered to work as part of the British staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority. He was a deputy governor in Maysan and Nasariyah from October 2003 to June 2004.
Like "The Places in Between" this book also is like a modified and selected diary, so it proceeds chronologically. Stewart writes about his and his staff's efforts to engage the local Iraqi population in political and reconstruction efforts. Stewart pulls no punches about his own and others' naivete, their frustrations with engaging the members of the local power structures, and the disorganization of both the Iraqis and the CPA. He made a few trips to the Green Zone and his descriptions are consistent with those of Rajiv Chandrasekaran ("Imperial Life in the Emerald City").
It's impressive in retrospect to learn how quickly the invasion of Iraq went sour. The political and security situation got worse and more dangerous just in the 9 months Stewart was there....more
I would say I "knew" about the Rape of Nanking, but I think all I knew before reading this is the title of the book and whatever I had read about it.I would say I "knew" about the Rape of Nanking, but I think all I knew before reading this is the title of the book and whatever I had read about it. I suspect this is true of many of us.
Chang lays out the background of Japanese history, the shogun culture of warriors, and how the military was trained in the 20th century. She says the training was harsh and even brutal and produced an army with great discipline and no tolerance for independent thinking.
It's hard to remember in our hyper-connected age how slowly information traveled and how little the rest of the world, including China, knew about Japan and what it was up to in the 1930's. According to Chang, when word got around Nanking that the Japanese were attacking the city many (some?) had no idea what Japanese people looked like. (p 83, "Tang...experienced a sudden urge to see a Japanese soldier with his own eyes....he had heard that the Japanese looked like the Chinese but never having been to Japan [he wasn't sure]." And Japan somehow believed they could easily conquer China, based on what lack of information or reality testing, it's hard to guess.
One of the things the Japanese soldiers were told before they attacked the city was that the army couldn't afford to feed prisoners and therefore residents of Nanking should be killed rather than captured. The descriptions of the rapes and the slaughter are almost literally nauseating. In the end no one is sure how many were killed - estimates range from about 250,000 to 350,000 (p 102-103).
A parallel story is of the "Nanking Safety Zone" an area near the center of the city where many foreigners lived and where there were schools and a university, the American Embassy, a hospital etc. Throughout the slaughter a small band of Americans and Europeans worked themselves almost literally to death sheltering residents, feeding them, treating them etc. Some who survived never recovered from the experience. One of the stalwarts was a German, a member of the Nazi party who wrote directly to Hitler asking for help.
Chang followed up with as many of these foreigners or their families and ended with a treasure trove of papers. At the time some journalists wrote stories, took pictures and even film, but the story of Nanking got lost in the bigger story of WW II altogether.
After the war the Japanese adamantly refused to accept any responsibility and geopolitics ultimately dictated that the US make Japan an ally against Communist China, and the story got lost.
This is the John Dean who was Nixon’s White House lawyer. He has gone on to a career in investment banking, I believe. What’s worth everyone’s attentiThis is the John Dean who was Nixon’s White House lawyer. He has gone on to a career in investment banking, I believe. What’s worth everyone’s attention from Dean is his particular perspective on the effects of secrecy in the executive branch. The title reveals his point of view, but the text is copiously documented and what he writes about is not available anywhere else. Not an easy read but has essential information for anyone who cares about our country. It is NOT outdated (as of 2007). If anything the problem of executive overreach and secrecy is worse than ever....more
This is a very interesting book that I forgot to post when I first read it a few years ago. I had occasion to pull it off my shelves to confirm a recoThis is a very interesting book that I forgot to post when I first read it a few years ago. I had occasion to pull it off my shelves to confirm a recollection about what Trofimov wrote about the first few days of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Trofimov is a writer for the Wall Street Journal, which I don't usually read. This book is a collection of essays over several years. There are 14 chapters, 2 on Saudi Arabia, one each on Tunisia, Yemen Kuwait, Lebanon, Mali, and Bosnia, two on Afghanistan, and four on Iraq. I believe he speaks Arabic, but I couldn't confirm it without rereading the whole book. In any case, he's very familiar with the Muslim world. His biography gives him an unusual perspective. Born in Ukraine, he grew up in Madagascar and lives in Rome.
I found all of the chapters interesting. What stuck in my head particularly and was the reason I picked it off my bookshelf is his description of the American misadventure in Iraq. He drove to Iraq from Kuwait in a rented SUV just a day or two after the American invasion. Contrary to most reporting at the time and to the recent 10 year anniversary retrospective was immediate hostility to the invasion by many ordinary Iraqis.
In southern Iraq, just miles from the border on day 2 or 3, p. 104 "As I flipped open my notebook, schoolteacher Majid Kaddoum stepped forward from a gathering crowd, his voice shaking: 'We are Iraqis, and we will defend our country and defeat the aggressors.' Ismail Hantush, a local oil industry engineer, seethed, too: 'The Americans are destroying our country. There will be a fight.'....p105 "I was inclined to take this anger with a pinch of salt....But when I walked away from the crowd, a local tailor came up to me with a sheepish smile. He pushed a bicycle, holding a baby boy propped on the seat. Looking straight into my face, and then pointing at wrecked cars on the road, he repeated almost entranced, in a quiet, murmuring voice, 'We hate you. You are all criminals. We hate you. You are all criminals.'"
Kapuscinski was recommended to me by my college roommate and her husband - both big readers. Kapuscinski was a Polish journalists who managed to travelKapuscinski was recommended to me by my college roommate and her husband - both big readers. Kapuscinski was a Polish journalists who managed to travel all over the world and report from everywhere. This one is about the fall of the last Shah of Iran in 1979.
Kapuscinski is an eccentric and interesting writer...more
I pulled this off my shelves last night to confirm that the relationship between the Pakistani ISI (Interservices-Intelligence) and the Taliban predatI pulled this off my shelves last night to confirm that the relationship between the Pakistani ISI (Interservices-Intelligence) and the Taliban predates 9/11/01 obviously. p 565 In September 2001 the ISI "was determined to oppose any effort to foment rebellion against Mullah Omar from Pakistani soil."
So the Wiki-Leaks release over the week-end of so-called "secret" documents about the US involvement in Afghanistan mostly confirms what was already public knowledge. (I am writing on July 27, 2010)
In many ways Coll's book tells it all. If you read it nothing in the news about Afghanistan today will surprise you. And it certainly gives an excellent background to the 9/11 attacks. It's long but well written and thorough. At the time Coll was a managing editor for the Washington Post....more
Compelling. Well written. Unless one, understandably, feels that one has heard ENOUGH about this topic and/or finds it too upsetting, this is an excelCompelling. Well written. Unless one, understandably, feels that one has heard ENOUGH about this topic and/or finds it too upsetting, this is an excellent, readable, report from a first-rate journalist for The New Yorker. The cover says that the text started out as a three-part series in The New Yorker.
The book has two parts - 4 chapters grouped under "Nature." and 6 under "Man."
Kolbert travels to Alaska and tells us about the permafrost. Who knew? much less how important it is. She explicates the history of the science of greenhouse gases, which were studied in the 19th century. She spends a month on a glacier in Greenland.
In "Man" she ranges from an ancient tale of climate change in a chapter on the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC. And so on.
Her range is wide. She talks to many scientists. It's never over your head.
It's a great story, completely self-written. Takes him from his early childhood through his education, trip to Kenya and community organizing experienIt's a great story, completely self-written. Takes him from his early childhood through his education, trip to Kenya and community organizing experience in Chicago before he went to law school. It was written before he went into politics....more
A young woman's coming of age story; coming of age as an American Muslim of Syrian-born parents in Indianapolis. An earlier working title was "GreetinA young woman's coming of age story; coming of age as an American Muslim of Syrian-born parents in Indianapolis. An earlier working title was "Greetings from Islamistan, Indiana." Time is from the 1970's to the early 90's. The girl is Khadra, with one older and one younger brother. Her parents are political refugees from Syria but never talk about it. The politics are in the background but not off stage.
I chose to read it because the author is one of the contributors to the book "The Veil" which I finished reading a few months ago.
It's a bit long, but in being so it allows the reader to get immersed in the world of this community. The older Khadra gets the more interesting her story. True of all of us. There are tensions and stresses - else what would be the interest - but the familial and community ties stretch but do not break....more
Rory Stewart, a young British diplomat, took a "walk" across Afghanistan from Herat in the northwest via Bamiyan in central Afghanistan to Kabul in JaRory Stewart, a young British diplomat, took a "walk" across Afghanistan from Herat in the northwest via Bamiyan in central Afghanistan to Kabul in January 2002. He was told it was impossible, he would die or be killed. He survived to tell his tale. The book is in the form of the diary of his walk with wonderful descriptions of the landscape and the people. It turned out that the Babur, the first Mughal, also took the same route in January 1504, from his home in the Fergana Valley of Central Asia ultimately to India.
Stewart writes well, as the best Brits do, with many references to history and books. (Stewart was only in his early 20's). Any reader with an interest in Afghanistan, current or past, remote and unfamiliar places, or who just likes a good tale will enjoy this book....more
First rate, as timely today as when it was first published in 1975. It's comprehensive, covering in its 404 pp many many aspects of rape. It's hard toFirst rate, as timely today as when it was first published in 1975. It's comprehensive, covering in its 404 pp many many aspects of rape. It's hard to think of what Brownmiller did not cover. The 12 chapters are: 1. The Mass Psychology of Rape: An Introduction; 2. In the Beginning Was the Law - more or less from Hammurabi through English Law, which is the basis for our law 3. War: WW I; WW II; Bangladesh; Vietnam (Now we might think of the Congo, Bosnia, and rapes committed by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan) 4. Riot, Pogroms and Revolutions; The American Revolution; Pogroms; The Mormon Persecutions; Mob Violence Against Blacks: The KKK; Mob Violence Against Whites: The Congo 5. Two Studies in American History: Indians; Slavery; Addendum: The Cliometricians 6. The Police-Blotter Rapist: Paris, Groups, and Gangs; "Gratuitous Acts, Extravagant Defilements"; Rape-Murder 7. A Question of Race 8. Power: Institution and Authority; Prison Rape: The Homosexual Experience; Police Rape; The Sexual Abuse of Children 9. The Myth of the Heroic Rapist (From Greek Myths to modern movies) 10. Victims: The Setting; The Conscious Rape Fantasy (this section covers Freud, Helene Deutsch, Karen Horney); The Beautiful Victim; "Blonde Ex-Showgirl Slain in Hotel Suite"; Confessions: "He Made Me Do It" 11. Victims: The Crime 12. Women Fight Back
Sad to say, not much has changed since the women's movement and 1975. We can think of Dominque Strauss-Kahn, a case recently dismissed because a mute girl in a wheelchair didn't make any noise!, and the ignorant rantings of a few Republican lawmakers.
Another book about rape in my own list is Jessica Stern's "Denial: A Memoir of Terror"...more