If Turkey lived up to its potential, it could rule the world - but will it? A passionate report from the front lines For centuries few terrors were more vivid in the West than fear of "the Turk," and many people still think of Turkey as repressive, wild, and dangerous. Crescent and Star is Stephen Kinzer's compelling report on the truth about this nation of contradictions - poised between Europe and Asia, caught between the glories of its Ottoman past and its hopes for a democratic future, between the dominance of its army and the needs of its civilian citizens, between its secular expectations and its Muslim traditions. Kinzer vividly describes Turkey's captivating delights as he smokes a water pipe, searches for the ruins of lost civilizations, watches a camel fight, and discovers its greatest poet. But he is also attuned to the political landscape, taking us from Istanbul's elegant cafes to wild mountain outposts on Turkey's eastern borders, while along the way he talks to dissidents and patriots, villagers and cabinet ministers. He reports on political trials and on his own arrest by Turkish soldiers when he was trying to uncover secrets about the army's campaigns against Kurdish guerillas. He explores the nation's hope to join the European Union, the human-rights abuses that have kept it out, and its difficult relations with Kurds, Armenians, and Greeks. Will this vibrant country, he asks, succeed in becoming a great democratic state? He makes it clear why Turkey is poised to become "the most audacious nation of the twenty-first century."
A passionate love for the Turkish people and an optimism that its ruling class can complete Turkey's transformation into a Western-style democracy mark Kinzer's reflections on a country that sits geographically and culturally at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Kinzer, the former New York Times Istanbul bureau chief, gives a concise introduction to Turkey: Kemal Atat?rk's post-WWI establishment of the modern secular Turkish state; the odd makeup of contemporary society, in which the military enforces Atat?rk's reforms. In stylized but substantive prose, he devotes chapters to the problems he sees plaguing Turkish society: Islamic fundamentalism, frictions regarding the large Kurdish minority and the lack of democratic freedoms. Kinzer's commonsense, if na?ve, solution: the ruling military elite, which takes power when it feels Turkey is threatened, must follow the modernizing path of Atat?rk whom Kinzer obviously admires a step further and increase human rights and press freedoms. Kinzer's journalistic eye serves him well as he goes beyond the political, vividly describing, for instance, the importance and allure of the narghile salon, where Turks smoke water pipes. Here, as elsewhere, Kinzer drops his journalist veneer and gets personal, explaining that he enjoys the salons in part "because the sensation of smoking a water pipe is so seductive and satisfying." Readers who want a one-volume guide to this fascinating country need look no further. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
October 31, 2003
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