“This is Turkey. Burası Türkiye. It’s always been one of my favourite Turkish expressions. Deftly employed with a sympathetic shrug of the shoulders, it can be used to explain away almost anything.” Chris Morris in The New Turkey: The Quiet Revolution on the Edge of Europe
Is the New Turkey already the Old Turkey?
I have to chuckle at the title of the book I am reviewing today, a book I thoroughly enjoyed.
Is there a country in the world whose narrative is changing more quickly than Turkey’s?
Chris Morris’ excellent attempt to capture Turkey on paper was published in 2005. Seven years later it is in need of an update.
Pat Yale, a journalist/author friend in Göreme suggested I read the book when we were discussing recent books in this genre. I had commented on Kinzer’s updated Crescent and Star (or for the
Kindle version), and she suggested I may like a similar book by a Brit. (She tells me that Andrew Finkel’s hot off the presses Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know (Kindle version) should be next on my list.)
Morris begins The New Turkey: The Quiet Revolution on the Edge of Europe with the obligatory Ottoman Turkish history interspersing personal anecdotes in a readable style that invites the reader along for Turkey’s journey into uncharted waters. Like Kinzer, he canvases the country gathering information from personal interviews with Prime Minister Erdoğan, Van Women’s Association head Zozan Özgökçe, and everyone in-between.
He explains the idea of Devlet, one of those Turkish words that is translated as government but is so sublime in Turkey that even a whole chapter barely scratches the surface.
He continues with the force of Islam in AKP-led Turkey and the powerful personality of its leader. This would not be complete without an introduction to Fetullah Gülen and the grass roots, soul inhabiting place that Islam has in the Turkish population despite the secular attempts to root it out.
The taboo subjects of the Kurds, the Armenians, and the Greeks are dealt with in detail including the encouraging story of how the Greeks were first on the scene with aid after the 1999 earthquake.
Following this is my favorite chapter, maybe the most important part of the book. Most books on Turkey cover the same subjects (see the list in the paragraphs above) and make some predictions about Turkey’s future. The good writers are able to tell the story in a unique style with enough personal anecdotes to make it worth reading. The best are able to go beyond this and enlighten the reader to aspects of Turkey that to this point have been in the dark for all but the true believers.
Morris does this in chapter 6: Rights and Wrongs. He takes us on a journey around Turkey and gives us a peek into the Freedom of Expression Museum, the lives of families of Police torture victims, the longest running hunger strike in the world, tragic honor killings, the Van Women’s Association, the public education system, and the GAP project in the southeast. For most readers this will be illuminating.
But the torch does not run out of batteries just yet. After a couple of chapters on the 2001 economic crisis and the Turkey-EU issues (excellent work profiling the lives of Turks living in Europe), Morris again delves into the lesser known Turkish world. You will have to read the book to find out what he uncovers, but it includes Turkey’s place in the world and interviews with some of the leading culture makers within the country. I have read many books on Turkey and much of this was new information for me.
But with all of this said, what is my recommendation?
If you have recently read Kinzer’s Crescent and Star or Mango’s The Turks Today, then I would say to wait a bit. Give yourself some time to forget the details.
If you are looking for a good book on Turkey
From an excellent author
Who details both the headlines as well as the lesser known but equally important narratives,
Than you will be delighted with Morris’ volume.
What is your favorite book in this genre?
Are you interested in other Turkey-related books? Check this out:
The Visitor: A Stranger, A Message, A Clash of Cultures by Peter Pikkert
Cappadocia Travel Guide by Oberheu & Wadenpohl
Turkish Alevis Today by John Shindeldecker
The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk
Crescent and Star by Stephen Kinzer
Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango
The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire by Lord Kinross
A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat By Jeremy Seal
29 Books Related to Turkey: A Reading List
If you enjoyed this post and think others would as well, why don’t you share it with your friends. Just click one of the buttons below or to the side. Also, you may want to subscribe to these posts. Click here and follow the instructions. One of my goals is to help people who will visit Cappadocia. This is your way to help me meet this goal. Thank you, I am grateful.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Most of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the US Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”