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Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds Paperback – September 16, 2008

143 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0374531409 ISBN-10: 0374531404 Edition: Revised

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 Ataterk's post-WWI establishment of the modern secular Turkish state; the odd makeup of contemporary society, in which the military enforces Ataterk'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 naeve, solution: the ruling military elite, which takes power when it feels Turkey is threatened, must follow the modernizing path of Ataterk 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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Americans can no longer plead ignorance about modern Turkey. Recently, several excellent books on the subject have been published by Western journalists: Marvine Howe's Turkey Today (LJ 6/1/00), Nicole and Hugh Pope's Turkey Unveiled (Overlook, 1998), and now this work by Kinzer, former New York Times Istanbul bureau chief (1996-2000). All three are informative and provocative, though each has a slightly different focus (Howe focuses on the role of Islam, while the Popes provide a narrative history). Interspersing journalistic essays with personal vignettes, Kinzer discusses Turkey's potential to be a world leader in the 21st century, as it is truly a bridge between East and West, politically and geographically. Kinzer questions Turkey's ability to achieve this potential, however, unless true democracy can be established. Whether it can depends on Turkey's military, which, in order to ensure the continuation of the Kemalist ideal of a paternalistic state, has never allowed real freedom of speech, press, or assembly. Kinzer argues persuasively that if the military refuses this opportunity, the consequences (Islamic fundamentalism, Kurdish terrorism, denial of EU membership) could be catastrophic for the Turkish state and its people. An excellent, insightful work; highly recommended. Ruth K. Baacke, formerly with Whatcom Community Coll. Lib., Bellingham, WA
Copyright 2001 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: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Revised edition (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374531404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374531409
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Kinzer was Istanbul bureau chief for The New York Times and is now that paper's national cultural correspondent. He is the author of Blood of Brothers and co-author of Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. He lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 100 people found the following review helpful By W. Jarvis on October 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Thank you, Mr. Kinzer.
To all reading this, please buy this book if Turkey or world cultures interest you.
I've heard Turkey and Turks called everything from genocides to barbarians to philistines to militarists and just as easily, I've heard the country brushed off as if it's just another fragment of a nation, a third-world country. The problem is that Turkey is only half-known, and Turkey is half-sure of what it must do.
The book makes clear all the difficulties of Turkey and its search for a place in the sun. Yes, there were massacres of Armenians after their support of Russia in WWI. Yes, there have been several military coups that tortured thousands of people. Yes, the Kurdish wars were terrible and kept secret by the government. But what were the circumstances of these events? Kinzer answers all, taking the right people to task for the crimes in Turkey's past.
The wonderful thing is that Kinzer doesn't shy away from the awful realities, the eccentricities, and the outright pitfalls of Turkey's quirky system. He tells it all how it is, but he obviously loves the country all the same. He just hopes it will fix its flaws as he knows it can.
I am of Turkish descent but this book written by a non-Turkish American thoroughly deepened my appreciation for the country. If you're attracted by the book at all, follow your instincts and pick it up.
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68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By M. Coburn on May 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
You can learn a good deal about Turkey from this book but it suffers two weaknesses. One is the heavy-handed prescriptions for Turkey which the author voices repeatedly; while much of the analysis seems cogent, there is an almost-arrogance in the idea of an American reporter telling the Turks how they should fix their nation. The second is the almost total omission of any discussion of the role of women in the culture --- a critical and profoundly interesting question as the country finds its way between East and West.
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93 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on September 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A truly modern Turkey governed by the rule of law would raise the Turkish people to levels of
prosperity and self-confidence they have never known before. Despite the country's political and
psychological underdevelopment, it has the resources to become a towering power. If it can
liberate
itself from its paralyzing fears and embrace true democracy, it will also serve as a magnetic
example of how the ideals of liberty can triumph over enormous obstacles. By adding moral
strength to its military strength, Turkey could become a dominant force in the Middle East,
encouraging peace and pulling Arab countries away from the social backwardness and feudal
dictatorship under which most of them now suffer. It could exert a mighty and stabilizing
influence westward to the Balkans and eastward to the Caucasus and Central Asia, becoming the
key power in a region that is strategically vital, overwhelmingly rich in oil and other resources, and
now ruled mostly by tyrants who are dragging it toward chaos.
-Stephen Kinzer, Crescent & Star
Though we pay obscenely little attention, Turkey is an extraordinarily important nation and its future
may go a long way to determining whether Islam and democracy can ultimately co-exist in one
nation. Geographically and politically, Turkey occupies a unique position, squeezed between Europe
to the West and the Islamic world to the East. Though traditionally Muslim, its great revolutionary
leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, upon taking power in 1922 and establishing a Republic, reoriented the
nation towards the West, toward the values of the Enlightenment and the institutions of secular
democracy.
Read more ›
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Craig Stoehr on October 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Having traveled to Turkey numerous times for both business and vacation (I generally spend two weeks each summer in Istanbul and Bodrum), I thought Kinzer did a spendid job of describing the crossroads Turkey is at. In the aftermath of September 11th, the book is particularly relevant, as it examines what is frequently being referred to as the "model" for a secular Islamic state.
The book is also an easy read for anyone interested in Turkey and its important future role in Middle East/Central Asia-Western relations, as it provides an excellent view into the various internal and external conflicts Turkey has had to address, without becoming too bogged down in a detailed history. Although at times fairly critical of the Turkish government and military, generally, the captivating spirit and culture of the Turkish people shine through.
The vignettes that precede each chapter about the author's experience with Turkish culture - swimming the Bosphorous, enjoying raki (the Turkish national drink), attending olive oil wrestling and camel fights, and even spending a night in a Turkish jail - add a wonderful personal and human touch to the book.
All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Turkey and/or current affairs in the Middle East/Central Asia.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A reader on April 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Readers who find Thomas Friedman's books insufferable will find much to annoy them in Stephen Kinzer's book on Turkey. Kinzer is another New York Times correspondent who is able to make glib assertions about peoples and conflicts moments after arriving in a country.
Here he is on the Kurds: "Kurds are poor, share a collective memory of rebellion and have used guns to solve their problems for as long as there have been guns (P. 111)." Here he is on the Middle East: "Since time immemorial, leaders in the Middle East have nurtured a culture of power and confrontation. Winners take all, losers are annihilated and compromise is considered a sign of weakness (p.133)."
A further annoyance is the writing. It is clichéd and uninspired: Abdullah Ocalan is described as a "Marxist firebrand;" the Kurdish conflict is "Turkey's festering wound;" the Black Sea is "cool, verdant and alpine."
Also like Friedman, Kinzer is careful to emphasize the fact that he (the New York Times Correspondent) has access to all the movers and shakers. We learn that in the summer of 1999, he had lunch with Foreign Minister Ismail Cem "at a fashionable restaurant in Ankara." A few days later in Athens, Kinzer meets Cem's "Greek counterpart, George Papandreou." Neither man has anything profound to say, but since Kinzer is a Times correspondent, they will talk to him; and since they have talked to him, why not write it down?
Kinzer has written books on Nicaraqua and Guatemala and, according to the dust jacket, is now the Times national cultural correspondent in Chicago. Further, he has "covered more than fifty countries on four continents." So perhaps he has spread himself a little thin. At least in this book it seems that way.
For a more substantial and less egocentric view of contemporary Turkey, try "Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey." Or better still, keep looking and maybe you will find a good book about Turkey written by a Turk.
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