46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novelesque; a triumph in style
Kinross approached this biography in a very unconventional manner, and the gamble paid off. Often historical subjects like Ataturk can reach into the "heavy reading" column with complicated military, social, diplomatic and political explanations. But Kinross gambles by trusting the intelligence of the reader, and depends more on conveying the strong, abrasive...
Published on December 3, 2001
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Full of detail, but toes the Party line
I agree; this book is full of detail about the life and career of this military and political genius. However, the language is a bit dated. It is written in a laborious, scholarly, Victorian style with lots of dependent clauses rather than a fluid, easy-to-read, modern journalistic style. I should also mention that the author takes the official Party line on controversial...
Published on October 21, 2011 by Dion Good
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novelesque; a triumph in style,
By A Customer
Kinross approached this biography in a very unconventional manner, and the gamble paid off. Often historical subjects like Ataturk can reach into the "heavy reading" column with complicated military, social, diplomatic and political explanations. But Kinross gambles by trusting the intelligence of the reader, and depends more on conveying the strong, abrasive character of Ataturk than on the intricit, deeply-calculated broad social mechanics that surrounded him. You will walk away knowing in-depth the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the Turkish Republic while getting a clear insight into the character of Ataturk: his strengths and his shortcomings. As time goes by, it is more and more important to understand Kemalism and the course of secularization and modernization in the East.
The diagrams of the battle-fields on a mile scale were extremely helpful: for those, like me, who aren't adept at reading and understanding military strategies, Kinross gives you an introductory course. For the first time, I felt like I actually *knew* what happened in some important battles.
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What you need to know about the making of the Turkish nation,
Found by chance in a small bookstore this is one of the best books I have ever read. Finely written, it will give you all the detail you need to understand the last days of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the Turkish Nation. Even if you are not that interested in the subject it will draw you into the fascinating detail of the life of a truly extraordinary man in extraordinary times. Buy it...you will enjoy it without being able to put it away.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid biography of a 20th Century Titan,
By A Customer
Ataturk is, for most Westerners, the Unknown Titan of the Twentieth Century - towering over most of the centuries leaders and up there in the Pantheon with Churchill, de Gaulle, Roosevelt and Truman. Ataturk's vision, courage and generosity of spirit would have marked him out as exceptional in any period, but his achievement in creating a new, modern, forward-looking nation on the ruins of a corruption and strife-ridden empire that had finally collapsed after centuries of decline is unprecedented. Ataturk - Mustapha Kemal - did not just remake Turkey, giving it new hopes, new visions and new liberties, - even a new alphabet - but he remade himself in the process, coping with personal weaknesses and failings and never letting them master him. Tough, courageous, ruthless when necessary, Ataturk nevertheless balanced these qualities with compassion and humanity. Like many great soldiers turned politicians he never lost sight of the fact that yesterday's enemy must be tomorrow's friend if the mistakes of the past are not to be perpetuated. This masterly biography covers every aspect of Ataturk's life in detail and is the ideal introduction for the open-minded Westerner eager to understand modern Turkey and its heroic people. I first read it in 1967 and it remained as an inspiration for me until I had the privilege and pleasure of living and working in Turkey a quarter century later. I then reread it with even greater delight and was able to make a personal pilgrimage to Ataturk's severe and dignified mausoleum (which he would probably never have wanted) in Ankara. Ataturk's portrait hangs in my study and this book has a place of honour on my shelves - if you love history and seek personal inspiration then get it at all costs!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book worthy of an epic motion picture,
At 9:05 AM on each November 10th, all the inhabitants of Turkey stop their worldly activities and observe a few minutes of silence. They are observing the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, in 1938. Ataturk was a man larger than life. After the destruction of the Ottoman Empire during WWI he defeated western European powers bent on carving up the spoils for themselves, and formed the new Turkish Republic in 1923. Ataturk was directly responsible for the disaster inflicted on British and Australian forces at Gallipoli, dramatized in the 1981 Australian motion picture. He also fought unsuccessfully against T. E. Lawrence and his Arabs. After forming the new Turkey, he completely reformed its society, replacing the arabic alphabet with latin, abolishing both polygamy and the fez, and installing a secular government. Lord Kinross' masterful book captures the broad scope and the thrilling details of the life of this amazing man and demonstrates his influence on the 20th century. Ataturk is one of the best biographies ever written, about one of the most interesting men in history.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing,Heroic,Legendary,
Unfortunately we know very little about the history of Modern Turkey and the Turkish people in general. I would even say all we know is unsubtantiated ...in general against Turks. This wonderful book of outstanding historian Lord Kinross is telling the real story behind the modern Turkey and the avant-guard philosophical foundations that created this modern republic out of ashes of a country which was torn off completely by wars followed one another. This book is clearly proving us that Ataturk is not only the most important political leader of our century but also may be some centuries back and some centuries forward yet to come. Any person from the developed Western societies who are serious about learning something about a nobel nation such as Turks and their genius humanitarian leader Ataturk, this is the book to read.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography of a great leader,
By A Customer
It is not common that you find an objective and well written
biography of a great personality. Kinross shows great skill in
in showing the strengths and weaknesses of Ataturk and the
reforms accomplished by him with that eras background.
If you want to know about Ataturk and also the foundation of
a modern nation from the ruins of Ottoman Empire, this is one
book you must read.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every hero has a human side,
I am Turkish. So I have read lots of things about Ataturk throughout my education. But it was all about the events like wars, revolutions, treaties but not the feelings about this great man. Now I understand some of his moves better.
I think everybody can learn something from this book but especially people of Turkey should read it to learn what kind of events our nation lived on our way to freedom and what kind of differences a leader can make.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful,
The finest biography I've ever read. An exciting insight into surely, the twentieth century's greatest statesmen. A tremendous read. Also catch the prequel, "The Ottoman Centuries", which is just as lucid and marvellous.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing,
having searched for a book on this leader but finding it out of my price range i happened to find a copy for £10 in Turkey of this book. It is a brilliant read. A man forgotten in the west but so properly idolised in turkey. Now I understand what all the fuss is about. This character is no Mussolini, Stalin or other jumped up tin pots but a man of the most amazing integrity and insight. It is amusing the way Lloyd George spend his whole career trying to undermine him but in the end with the defeat of the grekks fell from power due to his integrity. A tear passed my eye reading about the death of this hero and I certainly felt that i understood a bit more the respect and emotions theTurks have towards him.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly compassionate view of Atatürk's life,
This review is from: Ataturk: the Rebirth of a Nation (Paperback)
"Atatürk" by Patrick Kinross was first published in 1964. I found this book to be a highly compassionate view of Atatürk's life.
Patrick Kinross' narration is insightful and reads like a story; very different from a dry historical text presenting fact after fact. He draws a rich picture of the life of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in terms of the changing political, religious and social landscape of his country in the first quarter of the 20th century. Atatürk literally created the nation of Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire as World War 1 re-drew the political lines of Europe.
He gives the reader a very personal understanding of the intense sense of purpose and duty that drove Atatürk throughout his life, and also how it led to many contradictions in his life. Atatürk created a secular nation by first engendering the support of eminent religious authority figures, without telling them his aim was a secular nation. Atatürk wanted Turkey to become just like a "modern Western democratic republic", but became a benign autocrat, leading a one party system where all representatives were hand picked by Atatürk.
Kinross begins with Atatürk's birth in Salonika and traces his troubled early school years and enrolment into the Military Secondary School where Atatürk discovered himself as a soldier and was given the first name "Kemal", meaning "perfection". From his portrayal of Atatürk in his younger years, we are given to understand that Atatürk developed very early a fierce sense of dedication to a country he recognized as flawed and in need of change. He demonstrates an astounding prescience, has a sharp mind, a passion for raki and debate, and an abiding abhorrence for what he saw as the role of religion in the decline of his country.
We follow Atatürk through the despairing times of World War 1, where Atatürk's actions and leadership are nothing short of heroic. The insights he develops into the military and political situation of the time picks him out as a potential threat to his superiors, but also identify him as an invaluable commander. For many years he works in the background to develop a network of resistance against the self serving Ottoman authority. Instead of bringing about a change of government, he finds himself pushed to the side as several revolutionaries take the fore, become despots in their own right and are then torn down - such as Enver Pasha. "Enver Pasha killed Enver Bey" is a telling quote I remember.
Eventually the situation for Atatürk comes to a head when the allies of the First World War begin plans to dismantle Turkey and occupy the country. Atatürk, using all his skill and cunning as a diplomatic, soldier and hero rallies a new line of defense that pushes the allies out of Turkey and forms a new government, the first Republic of Turkey.
I found some important subjects were left out or not given sufficient attention. There was only a passing reference to the swap of Greek and Turkish population in 1923. And although the Kurds' role in the independence war was described in some detail and the conflicts between Armenians, Kurds, Greeks and Turks over land was much discussed, there was no evaluation of Atatürk's attitude towards each group as a people or how this affected his actions.
At times, Kinross seemed too compassionate towards Atatürk, almost apologetic. The book made much of the contradictions within Atatürk, but rarely explored the darker side of his character. Instead, his actions were repeatedly explained or justified by his admirable sense of duty to his country. Nowhere was this clearer than in the portrayal of Atatürk's involvement in the Independence Tribunals of 1927. These tribunals were brought in to punish the leaders of a Kurdish revolt, but were also used to summarily round up all of Atatürk's political enemies at the time - including former friends and compatriots without whom the Republic of Turkey may never have come about.
I understand now, why there is still a deep reverence throughout Turkey for this politician and leader, Atatürk, who people still call the Father of Turkey. For he was truly the father of Turkey: he led a movement that completely and permanently changed the political and social face of the nation. Turkey changed from a caliphate to a republic, and that was just the beginning. After that, Atatürk gave the people a new language (yes, "gave" - he helped create it and personally taught it); laws were introduced changing the national costume; and women were made equal to men - all this in less than fifteen years!
I also understand that a major part of Atatürk's legacy is the shock of such massive changes introduced in such an extremely short time - a shock that still resonates today. At least one of the multiple coup d'état in the latter half of the 20th century (after Atatürk's death) were instituted by people who felt empowered to act by a sense of duty and revolution that Atatürk himself encouraged. The fact that religion lost its primacy under Atatürk also left his country with a deep and lingering conflict between religious and secular life that is at the forefront of Turkey's political situation today. Much like present day Indonesia, religious parties have gained prominence and seek to re-assert religion as part of government.
I began reading this book on the plane trip home from my first holiday in Turkey to visit my partner's family. It took me six months to finish the book and has given me a much deeper connection with this beautiful country and the people I met.
If you are a student of history, or if you have ever visited Turkey and wanted to know "how".. I highly recommend this book.
Review from my blog [...]
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Ataturk by Baron Patrick Balfour Kinross (Paperback - 2001)
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