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Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger Paperback – September 17, 1997

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Editorial Reviews


“Hitchens's book deserves wholehearted praise. His research has been thorough, his style is invigorating and he has written a compelling account of a tragic episode from first to last.”—Times Literary Supplement

“In his extensive, well-documented and even-handed book, Hitchens attempts, with remarkable success, to restore the recent history of Cyprus to its proper perspective.”—Christian Science Monitor

About the Author

Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and the author of the best-selling God Is Not Great. His books published by Verso include The Trial of Henry Kissinger, No One Left to Lie To, The Missionary Position, Unacknowledged Legislation, The Parthenon Marbles, Hostage to History, and more.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 3rd edition (September 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859841899
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859841891
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,755,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was the author of Letters to a Young Contrarian, and the bestseller No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also wrote for The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and The Independent, and appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthew's Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and C-Span's Washington Journal. He was named one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Vasilis A.P. Metaxas on May 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
As time marches on the true circumstances relating to the Cyprus 'problem' (an euphimism, if there ever was one) become slowly but surely known: Hitherto secret Western papers are running their archive course and getting declassified; aging British and American diplomats write their memoirs and, inadvertently or not, let slip; and more and more political scientists, disillusioned with 'the ally that is Turkey', take a harder look at its policies and practices.
This wasn't the case in 1984 when this book, simply titled 'CYPRUS', was originally published. The cold war was still hot and, silly as it now seems, there was widespread phobia about 'supplying' the Soviets with 'propaganda' material. Understandably perhaps the Western establishment was not very keen on writers exposing dirty tales - and none too friendly. Turkey's invasion of Cyprus was barely 10 years old - too close for most politicians' comfort to have a book out that contradicted the official line. And Turkey itself was still a most esteemed ally, not to be downplayed.
It is in this setting that 'CYPRUS' hit the news stands. It created something of an uproar. In the corridors of power on both sides of the Atlantic Mr. Hitchens's name was derided; in the populist Press he was dismissed as a 'communist' (as if this was somehow reason to belittle his writings); and Turkey declared him a persona non grata.
But why? Simply because C. Hitchens had not been content to adopt the simplistic view as put forth by Whitehall and the Whitehouse. He dared to offer an alternative explanation of the Cyprus 'problem'. What's more, he had done his homework well. His thesis was deeply researched and persuasively argumented.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
Christopher Hitchens earns his right as the author and narrator of this book to stricken from its pages the journalistic short-hand and gratuitous reference to "the Rape of Cyprus." In preparing this book, he sat through hundreds of hours of video-taped graphic testimony of Greek Cypriot rape victims, documented by the High Commission for Human Rights after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. Hitchens says he would prefer to use the Greek verb "kataklepse" which is the passive form of "ruined". As in "it was then he ruined me". But that would be Greek to most of us, and deciphering the message of Cyprus is difficult business alone.
Who the "ruined" Cyprus?
According to Christopher Hitchens, everyone but the Cypriotes themselves, and those Cypriotes involved in island politics who did make lasting contributions to chaos did so under duress or as a result of Britain's "last colonial effort" (whatever, if excluding Northern Ireland, that may be). Furthermore, Hitchens asserts, a conspiracy of international desires to see Cyprus fragmented and destabilized holds troubled Cyprus in check today.
Hitchens' text is often scored with insightful and lyrical passages, but it has two striking problems. We confront the first problem in the first four pages: the title misleads us. Contrary to the title's claim, this is not a thorough and balanced history from the Ottomans to Kissinger; it does not cover broadly the early conquests and settlements of the island, but instead, is a narrative which relies on some historical background (hence the four pages of honorable Ottoman mention at the beginning).
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a book about international political intregue which reads almost like a spy-cum-action thriller. It is not fiction, however. To paraphrase Orwell, these things actually happened.
There are, as Hitchens acknowledges, those who will accuse him of creating a huge and unlikely conspiricy theory with this book. Yet, to those who care to follow him, there is plenty of confirmation for his conclusions. They make disturbing reading.
The Cyprus problem is not, he states, the result of ancient ethnic rivalries. Indeed, he notes how the old cliche that Greek and Turkish Cypriots have always lived peacefully together is actually true, and that, for example, during the American-backed Greek coup in Cyprus and the subsequent Turkish military occupation of the island in 1974, Greek and Turkish Cypriots sheltered together and helped each other. Rather, Hitchens shows convincingly, the division of the island is the result of foreign power-games, led by the cynical foreign policies of Lyndon Johnson, Nixon and Kissenger, who used Cyprus as a pawn in an international political game without care for or reference to the inhabitants of that island.
Hitchen's book provides a necessary antidote to the increasingly common glib commentators in the media whose lazy research, and ignorance of history, makes them automatically see the Cyprus problem in terms of ethnic rivalries brought on by the Cypriots themselves. As Hitchens shows, in his highly readable account, the people of Cyprus are the least to blame for their 'problem'.
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