Travels through a Lost Empire
By Alev Scott
A journey across the former Ottoman Empire reveals the legacy of its influence on people from the Balkans to the Levant, and the integral diversity threatened amid rising nationalism.
Alev Scott's odyssey began when she looked beyond Turkey's borders for contemporary traces of the Ottoman Empire. Their 800-year rule ended a century ago - and yet, travelling through twelve countries from Kosovo to Greece to Palestine, she uncovers a legacy that's vital and relevant; where medieval ethnic diversity meets 21st century nationalism, and displaced people seek new identities.
It's a story of surprises. An acolyte of Erdogan in Christian-majority Serbia confirms the wide-reaching appeal of his authoritarian leadership. A Druze warlord explains the secretive religious faction in the heart of the Middle East. The palimpsest-like streets of Jerusalem's Old Town hint at the Ottoman co-existence of Muslims and Jews. And in Turkish Cyprus Alev Scott rediscovers a childhood home. In every community, history is present as a dynamic force.
Faced by questions of exile, diaspora and collective memory, Alev Scott searches for answers from the cafes of Beirut to the refugee camps of Lesbos. She uncovers in Erdogan's nouveau-Ottoman Turkey a version of the nostalgic utopias sold to disillusioned voters in Europe and the U.S. And yet - as she relates with compassion, insight and humour - diversity is the enduring, endangered heart of this fascinating region.
Alev Scott was born in London in 1987 to a Turkish mother and a British father. She studied Classics at Oxford before working in London as an assistant director in theatre and opera. In 2011 she moved to Istanbul, where she taught Latin at the Bosphorus University. Her first book, Turkish Awakening, was published in 2014. Alev writes for numerous publications, including the Guardian.
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- Publication date:
04 Oct 2018
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A lovely, lyrical and always insightful account that is as much about the present as the past. A joy from start to finish — Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads
Beautifully written with clear-eyed judgements and a sharp ear for fascinating anecdote and memorable characters. Exhilarating and often eye-opening, it shows this crucial region of the world from a new perspective. Essential reading for anyone interested in Turkey and its history — Michael Wood
Alev Scott approaches the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean by side roads and unfrequented channels. Her book is clear, bright, humane and never disheartened. — James Buchan
Brilliantly written with a real feel for character, the book is a pleasure to read and an erudite lesson in a fascinating chapter of Modern History. An indispensable addition to our understanding of the Middle East today. — Roger Scruton
This is a book full of fun, "I never knew that" moments . . . Scott's mission is not to tell the history of the calamitous way the British and French dismantled the empire. Her aim is to find out whether the bits left behind as Ottoman imperialists became Turkish nationalist have common threads . . . She is fascinated by the survival and difference of forgotten, represses and otherwise threatened minorities — Richard Spencer, The Times
Moving and amusing — Financial Times
Beautifully written - combines history, travel writing and personal discovery . . . Scott's writing is lyrical . . . She writes with a maturity and insight that belies her age, and is surely a rising star of the literary world. Her overall message is one of optimism. — Saul David, Telegraph