Title: Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds
Author: Stephen Kinzer
Release Date: September 22, 2001
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
For centuries few terrors were more vivid in the West than fear of “the Turk,” and many people still think of Turkey as repressive, wild, and dangerous. Crescent and Star is Stephen Kinzer’s compelling report on the truth about this nation of contradictions – poised between Europe and Asia, caught between the glories of its Ottoman past and its hopes for a democratic future, between the dominance of its army and the needs of its civilian citizens, between its secular expectations and its Muslim traditions.
Kinzer vividly describes Turkey’s captivating delights as he smokes a water pipe, searches for the ruins of lost civilizations, watches a camel fight, and discovers its greatest poet. But he is also attuned to the political landscape, taking us from Istanbul’s elegant cafes to wild mountain outposts on Turkey’s eastern borders, while along the way he talks to dissidents and patriots, villagers and cabinet ministers. He reports on political trials and on his own arrest by Turkish soldiers when he was trying to uncover secrets about the army’s campaigns against Kurdish guerrillas. He explores the nation’s hope to join the European Union, the human-rights abuses that have kept it out, and its difficult relations with Kurds, Armenians, and Greeks.
Will this vibrant country, he asks, succeed in becoming a great democratic state? He makes it clear why Turkey is poised to become “the most audacious nation of the twenty-first century.”
I first began reading this book for a graduate school paper I was writing on Turkey and Iran. I read the first two chapters, which were immensely useful in my paper. After said paper was turned in and I was free of the burden of finals, I found that I was still pondering Crescent and Star. I decided to go ahead and finish the book, and I’m glad I did.
Turkey is a country that has intrigued me greatly ever since undergrad. It straddles Europe and Asia, and as such, its history and culture are unlike any other Muslim country – it is currently trying to join the European Union. Its government is very repressive and the country has a history of human rights violations. It is also the only democracy with a predominantly Muslim population. These dichotomous and sometimes contradictory qualities make Turkey an extremely interesting country to study closely.
Kinzer’s book isn’t academic or dense; instead, it is a journalist’s view of Turkish history and culture. It is extremely easy to read and is a great introduction to the country as it is today. In between chapters, he has a series of vignettes that help illustrate his feelings towards the country. They fill in the gaps and really make the book personal, rather than a third-person treatise on Turkey.
Crescent and Star is a great summary of the country of Turkey. Whether you are thinking of visiting there or just intrigued by the country, this is a wonderful book to pick up. Even if you normally don’t like non-fiction, this is an easy one to read.