Posted by: Corri van de Stege | January 8, 2008

Some more on Geert Mak in Europe

The following comment was today placed under my blog on Geert Mak in Europe (Dec 2nd) by Jan.  (S)he says:

Geert Mak has made many mistakes in his book “In Europe”. In his story about Istanbul he depicts Ataturk as a “dictator” in one sentence. Ataturk has modernised parlament, installed voting rights for women, just to name a few to spice up his book. Also sharing the coupe in 1980 in turkey as anti-islamic is a huge blunder. Any cheap travel guide (or Wikipedia) can tell you it was a coupe to stop left-wing and right-wing clashes. Geert Mak his book is not worth reading. Geert Mak has certainly not the qualities to write about somithing as important as the history of Europe. My copy is ready for paper-recycling!!’

I felt it necessary to try and counter this comment because it is so obviously misplaced.  I’ve therefore responded as below:

Jan: perhaps it is worthwhile just rereading the chapter on Istanbul? Geert Mak writes about the city Istanbul and where he stays: the Pera Palas, where the loveliest suite ‘is held eternaly for Mustafa Kemal Pasa’ (Kemal Ataturk) and he goes on to relate how Ataturk was able to impose secularisation and indeed how he is seen as a symbol of ‘a great leap forward’. He sums up all the progressive measures attributed to Ataturk as well as alerting the readers to the fact that there is another side to the historical figure and whatever is ascribed to him, viz that he is also seen as a despot. With respect to the 1980 coup the book merely states that ‘thousands of opponents were detained without due process’ (which is true, I would say) and that lateron in 1998 generals ‘who acted in the name of Ataturk’ shoved aside the first democratically elected Islamic government.And by the way, this is a book about travels through Europe (visiting places and countries) and does not go anywhere near claiming to be ‘the history of Europe’. Perhaps keep the book and reread it, rather than shred it?’ 

By the way, this book is actually a huge success, also in the Netherlands where it is being filmed for a documentary programme running over two years. 


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