Rating: 4 out of 5
The character of Atatürk has been someone both larger than life who yet one knows very little—a name that comes up without knowing much about him. A large part of this stems from a complete absence of knowledge which is probably relatively common outside of Turkey, of the man, his times, and his desires, not to mention the understanding of the context of these. Mr Mango’s work jumps far in bridging this gap.
Though I had certain gripes in the reading of the book as a whole it worked really well. It was surprising that years could be jumped over as nothing happened; this is not my favourite method of a biography, as I prefer a more in-depth account of the entire time, but inevitably something had to be shortened to make space for the events.
Something that the author stressed several times, but which I still don’t feel I really understand, relates to the language reforms that Atatürk carried out. I wish a few more examples could have been included about this to make it more apparent what the real changes were, and especially which of the changes were lasting compared to those that were overturned after the country’s founder’s death.
Inevitably, a big chapter also related to the Great War. The biggest acknowledgment any author can make in this regard is the accurate portrayal of the length of the Ottoman conflict against the nearly two times shorter a war that most other nations endured. The successful emergence from this speaks for itself. Yet, something even more important which eluded me throughout these chapters related to the way the pashas seemed able to pick and choose what they wanted to do as opposed to their assignations. I’m sure there’s more to this than Mr Mungo managed to describe because in many of the cases it feels so weird to see a pasha say they do not want this command. Given how big an effect these task assignments had in determining who is near power and who is far from it, this aspect of military leadership could have been described more thoroughly.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed every page of this tome!