The following articles appeared last weekend in a popular Istanbul English language newspaper:
Understanding Turkey: a perpetual case of ‘Anlamadım’
Marion James, Sunday’s Zaman
The book reads a bit like the blog that it is: Each chapter is a self-contained article dealing with one particular aspect. Although common themes run throughout, there is no progression of a central theory leading to a final conclusion. This makes it ideal for the busy reader in the modern world who wants to be able to dip in to a book for 10 or 15 minutes, read a section and come away with a challenging concept or idea. Conversely, it could be frustrating for one wanting more depth.
This is a gutsy exploration of Turkey. Scott is not afraid to tackle nearly all of the taboos. Religion, democracy, Greeks and other minorities — we learn Scott’s opinion on all of these and more. He even entitles one chapter “Who killed the Armenians?” Refreshingly controversial, particularly for the reader fed up with the Emperor’s New Clothes style of herd journalism, Scott’s Turco-phile leanings still come through strongly. A good job too for an author who dares to try to define “Turkishness” in a country where insulting that quality is a criminal offence.
Going from newbie to expert
Charlotte McPherson, Today’s Zaman
You can be in a country for years and years, living in a foreign bubble, and not really rub shoulders with the locals at all. To illustrate my point, did you ever see the film “A Passage to India”? Some of the British officials had been in India for a long period of time but had hardly strayed from the colonial club and its British ways. They understood very little of the Indian way of life.
If empire and Raj-style living won’t help you understand the culture, should you go 100 percent native instead? Maybe, but perhaps you don’t have to go whole hog.
I was recently reminded of these questions when reading a book compiled from a regular blog published by Alan Scott. A New Zealander, Scott has lived in Turkey since 1995. He lectures at Okan University, and the blog and book are both called “Turkey File.” As I read through his interesting anecdotes and analysis, my attention was caught by comments and phrases he threw in that gave great insight into how he managed to begin to understand the culture.