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Ataturk: The Biography of the founder of Modern Turkey Paperback – August 26, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1923, reports Mango, a satirical magazine ran a cartoon showing the three faces of Turkey--the nation, the assembly and the government. All were identical: the features were those of Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938), an army officer who had salvaged the core of defeated Turkey after the 1914-1918 war to create a secular republic. A decade later, still trying to structure an identity for what remained of the polyglot, ramshackle Ottoman Empire, he decreed--as virtual dictator of a nation now largely populated by Muslims--that inhabitants had to take surnames. For himself, he adopted Ataturk, literally Father Turk. Mango (a retired BBC expert on Turkey and author of three previous books on the country) gives this man, one of the least-known nation-builders of the last century, full treatment, from his earliest days to his ascension to power and his death, from cirrhosis at the age of 57. Few leaders have so modernized an ancient society, instituting radical changes in dress, religion, government, education--even the alphabet. Ataturk abolished the monarchy, divided WWI's victors bent on partitioning all of Turkey, defeated rapacious Greeks intent on expanding their expatriate communities in Asia and destroyed or co-opted his domestic rivals. That so much of his legacy survives is evidence of his success. Mango's admiration for Ataturk doesn't keep him from displaying the dictator's arrogance, ruthlessness and authoritarianism; his Turkish expertise enables him to flesh out Ataturk's complex life via sources he translated himself. Mango gives a rounded, finely detailed portrait of the man who created modern Turkey. B&w photos. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Although there is no shortage of information on Mustafa Kemal Atat?rk in Turkish, no comprehensive biography has appeared recently in English. Mango's new book fills that gap in superlative fashion. Mango, born in Istanbul and fluent in Turkish, has published numerous articles and three other books on Turkey. Now more than ever, Atat?rk is a controversial figure in Turkey, so new sources on him continue to appear, on which Mango relies heavily. Almost unknown in the West in 1919, when he became the leader of the Turkish nationalist movement, Atat?rk had already accomplished much and set his course long before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. English readers are fortunate that Mango could distill what took place in Atat?rk's life up to the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. This is a balanced and exhaustively researched account of the influential life of one of the most complex and controversial figures in 20th-century world history. Given its scholarly nature, it is highly recommended for academic and special Middle East or military collections and for larger public libraries.
-Ruth K. Baacke, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 539 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; Reprint edition (August 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158567334X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585673346
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Stellar on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am a Turkish American who has read almost every Turkish and non-Turkish book about Ataturk's life. While I found this book to be a very well searched and written, it is a hard read. I found it does not pull you like Lord Kinross's Ataturk does. Mango did draw a very honest picture of Ataturk and at the end of the book, despite his weaknesses, you find yourself admiring the subject and what he accomplished. Still, the author talks more about the events surrounding Ataturk's decisions rather than his emotional and mental condition while making those decisions. One think that annoyed me through out the book was his trying to clear some myths and stories told over the years. That would be OK if there was any way of checking the facts but in most cases there are not. He questions stories told by friends, foes and Ataturk himself, without telling the reader why he is questioning them. In other words, he speculates that the particular story must have happened some other way but he does not have any prove to back it up. Still it is an honest book and I am glad he is very even handed dealing with history. Turks usually complain of biases in foreign authors' writings. It is clear Mango has no biases and he reports only the facts. I am also glad he is even handed about Ataturk's private life. Many ugly allegations have been made against Ataturk by his enemies that continues to this day. While he was not perfect, he was not what his enemies have made him out to be and Mango gives a very clear picture of his private life with warts and all. He also explains why and how some of these ugly stories were spread and continue to spread to this day. It is a good book for educational purposes. My favorite, however, is still Lord Kinross's Ataturk.
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105 of 115 people found the following review helpful By E. T. Veal on June 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When the Turkish Republic made it mandatory for all citizens to adopt surnames, its president Mustapha Kemal selected "Ataturk" - "Father Turk" - as uniquely his own. (His sister and other relatives were not allowed to use it.) The sobriquet embodied Kemal's image of himself, which was shared by many other Turks then and thereafter.
This hefty biography, written by a veteran and sympathetic observer of the Turkish scene, is more detailed and less fawning than Lord Kinross's 1964 tome, previously the best-known English life of Kemal. It is based on an extensive array of printed Turkish sources, synthesizing what a diligent modern Turk would know about Kemal if he read everything that is readily available. On the other hand, the absence of archival research leaves many evidentiary conflicts unresolved and gives the accounts of controversial episodes a "he said, she said" flavor.
The focus is very closely, perhaps too closely, on Kemal himself. We are presented not only with the dramatic incidents of his exciting career (conspiracies, coups, wars, assassinations) and disorderly private life (womanizing, alcoholism, corrupt cronies, broken friendships, suspicions of foul play) but also with itineraries of his travels and summaries of numerous unmemorable speeches. The decrees of "Kemalism" - abolishing the Caliphate and the shariat, secularizing education, reforming the Turkish language, adopting the Christian calendar, granting equality to women, compelling men to wear European-style hats - issue forth from Ankara, but we barely glimpse how they were received in the country at large or how much fundamental change they truly wrought.
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Amchan on August 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anyone concerned with religious fundamentalism should become familiar with Kemal Attaturk, one of the few statesmen in history to confront it headon.
Andrew Mango's book is not easy to read, partially because he tries to be comprehensive. Most American readers will not be interested in many parts of the book. However, Mango is much clearer than Lord Kinross, author of the only other Attaturk biography in English, on certain aspects of Attaturk's life.
Mango is much clearer on the role played by Attaturk at Gallipoli. He points out that although he is now described as the "victor of Gallipoli", that in 1919 the British did not recognize his name (Mustapha Kemal, at that time). Nevetheless, it is clear that Attaturk deserves much credit for the outcome of the battle, even if the credit must be shared with others--including the Germans.
When reading the Kinross biography, I assumed the author was hiding something regarding Attaturk's involvement in the massacre of the Armenians. Mango clearly indicates that Attaturk had no role and was still at Gallipoli when it occurred. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but I do wonder where one of the other reviewers, who compares Attaturk to Hitler and Stalin, gets his information.
It is clear that the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s is similar in some respects to ethnic cleansing. However, I suspect that Mango is correct in portraying the atrocities as occurring on both sides. It is also clear that the Greeks were the aggressors in the Turkish War of Independence and the Kemal Attaturk's role in defeating them entitles him to a place in Turkish history equivalent to Washington and Grant.
Mango sheds more light than Kinross on Attaturk's unusual personal life.
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