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Paradise Lost

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Paradise Lost.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Giles Milton(Author)

    Book details

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

3.5 (10861)
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Book details

  • PDF | 448 pages
  • Giles Milton(Author)
  • Sceptre; Reprint edition (2009)
  • English
  • 7
  • Other books

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Review Text

  • By Christian Kober on March 15, 2010

    The ethnic cleansing of Asia Minor is one of the defining tragedies of the mediteranean and one of the most underreported.Smyrna was one of the most multicultural cities of the Ottoman Empire, a lively and cosmopolitan city. Key to the cities economy was, like in so many British colonies, a coterie of well connected rich merchants.At the end of the great war, with the Ottoman empire defeated, the Allies took over the country and encouraged Greece to embark on a military adventure in what is modern Turkey. An wave of Nationalism, brilliantly exploited by Ataturk, leads the outgunned Turks to victory. The Greek army leaves Turkey via Smyrna. Smyrna is than overrun by the Turkish Nationalists and torched. Thousands and thousands are being killed.Thus a dry description of the events. The book has its good and its not so good. On the positive side, the absolute callousness of the allied powers, who implicitely encouraged Greece to embark on that war is well shown. What can one make of a Lloyd George who wants to make Istanbul Christian once again? Of western political leaders who with undescribable arrogance determined the fate of millions, based on their basest prejudices? How could it be that the Bay of Smyrna was filled with idle western warships while in the city thousands were persecuted and killed? One of the most gruesome scenes the author describes is how at dinner time the military bands of the ships are asked to perform louder in order to drown out the cries of the wounded and dying in the city.The author also tries to be evenhanded in describing Turkish as well as Greek atrocities, though the nature of his sources makes him more strong when it comes to describe the Greek, Levantine and Armenian perspective of the events.On the negative side, the author does not really question his chosen perspective. Furthermore he does not embark on trying to further understand the causes of the genocides and ethnic cleanings which befell Asia Minor in the early 20th century. Was Smyrna really such a wonderful place to be in? The lifes of the Levantines in Smyrna was certainly gilded. They were protected by low taxes on their businesses, duty exemptions on their goods and a host of other favourable policies not open to others. And were the thousands toiling in the Levantine owned quarries of Anatolia really so happy about being subjects of patriarchal family enterprises? Privilege begets jealousy, and in Smyrna this will not have been different. The Levantines were mostly English citizens, similar to the Taipan of Hongkong, who were economically successful because British Empire was their protector. Thus they could live, as foreign subjects, in the Ottoman empire and actually enjoy better trade privileges than a normal Ottoman citizen could. The similarity with Hongkong is striking, in both cases great trading houses florishing in the ashes of an ancient empire, building success on privilege and keeping themselves apart from and feeling superior to the natives.Thus the author strikes one as naive, describing the city as a place of such unmittigated harmony and bliss, and leaving the root causes of this catastrophy largely unexplored.

  • By T. A. Papassilekas on July 11, 2011

    This book starts off beautifully. For the first 50 or so pages the reader finds out about a fantastic, idyllic city and then gets a foreboding of doom creeping in, setting the pace for a real page-turner.However, it is marred by several serious flaws and ultimately falls flat on its face.To begin with, for some reason Milton decides to give extreme focus to the Leventine families of Smyrna. Sure, the lives of the rich is something lots of people are interested in, but the lives of the rich do not constitute the life of a city. The reader does not even get a glimpse of that life, with the more seedy aspects of the city, darker neighborhoods and rebetika taverns. As such the description of the city is severely wanting. Even when the destruction begins, and even though (as he admits) the Leventines didn't suffer anything but the loss of their property, he insists on devoting an inordinate amount of space to their killed cats or abandoned villas.In terms of interviews, too, the effort is rather pathetic: a couple of half-baked interviews with Greek survivors, perhaps one or two of Armenians, all amounting to maybe a token few pages of material. This is really disappointing since not only there are several survivors still around, but also since there are scores of biographies and first-person accounts of Smyrna and its destruction that could have served the book much better. And he ignores the Jewish community altogether.In terms of writing, while Milton starts in a great way he soon loses track of structure and discipline; as a result you may read, on one page, about the march of the Greek army in the depths of Anatolia, and a couple of pages later, bam! the Turks are entering Smyrna. He doesn't make an effort to supply the reader with the grander picture and it's rather obvious he couldn't care less about the geopolitics of the story. Heck, he doesn't even mention the Crimean war and the ramifications this had for the relations of the Russians with the Turkish nationalists.The catastrophe itself is described with no empathy and in a relatively small (quite small) section of the book. No matter that there are scores of accounts from victims and observers, he gets it over with rather quickly and painlessly. No matter that this ranks among the greater catastrophes and tragedies of history, it's almost as he's afraid to tread along the rivers of blood. And then it's suddenly over, and the "Aftermath" section of the book is really a joke, probably written on the bus on the way to submit the book to the publisher.Milton also appears to be rather ignorant about the dynamics and the peculiarities of the peoples involved. He rather haughtily believes, for instance, that seasoned navy captains would panic in the site of the first random foreign civilian who threatens them with court martial and gets on with the story. He even gets translations completely wrong, proving he doesn't have the slightest grip on the people he's describing.Finally, the photos accompanying the book are probably the 'mildest' I have ever seen, reflecting the overall attitude of Milton's.A shame...PS I couldn't agree more with Christian Kober's review of the book, which I read after writing mine.

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