I knew absolutely nothing about Turkey when I picked up this book, which I bought in preparation for a trip to Turkey next month. I found that the author, unlike some academics, writes limpid, readable prose. He does dwell in considerable detail on the political jousting that takes place inside the government; it seems that there have always been competing factions within the power structure in Turkey, and they appear at times to have changed position from week to week. I therefore found myself skimming through parts of this book. I wish he'd focused a bit more on cultural history, as this was the bit I found most interesting. Still, all in all, a good read for what is essentially a textbook. I've started "Turkey Unveiled" by Hugh and Nicole Pope, two journalists who are clearly aiming for a more popular treatment of the subject matter, and I can tell that my having read Professor Zurcher's book will make their book much more interesting.
This is an interesting book that starts in the declining Ottoman empire of the nineteenth century and follows developments of that time forward to quite recent events in Turkey of today, concentrating on political and economic issues. The author clearly knows his stuff and the information is thoughtfully presented. Because this book covers a lot of ground, it usually doesn't go into a lot of depth on any given set of events. My main criticism is that the author tends to compress his version of events in such a way that important points are often obscured or presented extremely briefly. This makes the book sometimes hard to follow. Nonetheless this is a good overview for anyone interested in Turkey. I came away with a renewed admiration for Ataturk and what he managed to accomplish. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic.
This book can definitely be recommended to students and general readers finding their way into the often controversial history of modern Turkey. It is well-balanced and clearly written, picking a sensible path between the distorted versions of Turkish history offered by those academics with too strong a pro-Turkish or anti-Turkish bias. Turkey's present-day authorities will almost certainly object to the book's conclusions about how best to tackle the long-standing Kurdish problem (Zurcher proposes guarantees for Kurdish culture and the Kurdish language, and some form of autonomy for the south-east). But the passages on the Kurds do not dominate the book, which is concerned mostly with tracing Turkey's turbulent road to modernity.
This study succeeds where others fail because it dares to take on the myth and the legend of Kemal Attaturk, a figure revered in Turkey (it is illegal and a crime to criticize him in print or on the internet in Turkey). This study discusses in detail Attaturk's voracious homosexual appetite, his taste for young boys, particularly Greek, Jewish and Armenian under the age of 14, and his male lover who lived with him until his death in 1938, a national hero and legend. This study understands the unarticulated issue of modern Turkey, which is the bisexuality and homosexuality of many Turkish men. Although hardly a gender study, this book is a step in the right direction. The homosexuality of "gastarbeiten", guest workers, from Turkey living in Germany, is well-known but largely uncommented upon. This dichotomy largely explains the frictions between Greek and Turks, between Turks and Kurds, between Turks and Iraqis and between Turks and Iranians. An excellent book, and one which will interest the political scientist as well as the gender studies specialist or the gay/lesbian reader.