Short Reviews

Mark Mazower, editor After the War was Over: Reconstructing the family, nation, and state in Greece, 1943-1960,  Princeton University Press, 2000.
The book is a collection of articles that for the most part provide an excellent account of a dark period of Greek history. While a few of the articles are weak the majority are very strong.  I lived through that period although, being in Athens, I did not experience the worst of it. To the best of my knowledge the book is accurate and objective, covering the atrocities of both the left and the right. Because the articles originated as papers in a scholarly conference they are not easy to read but this is compensated by the extensive documentation of their contents. [posted May 2002]

Marjorie Housepian Dobkin Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City, NewMark Press, 1998.
A moving account of the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-22 that ended with the expulsion of the Greek and Armenian populations of Asia Minor. The book documents that the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-22 was not really a war between the Greeks and the Turks but a conflict between the British (using the Greeks as proxies) on one hand and the French and Italians on the other (using the Turks as proxies). The prize was the oil of what is now  Iraq. (That country did not exist then; its area was still part of the Ottoman empire.) The author does an excellent job in documenting the role of the outsiders in stirring up trouble amongst the local populations. The competition between the Western European powers resulted in enormous suffering not only amongst the Greeks and Armenians but also amongst the Turks themselves. [posted May 2002](Amz)

Bernard Lewis The Middle East, A brief History of the last 2000 years, Touchtone, 1995 and
Bernard Lewis What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, Oxford, 2002.
There is a fair amount of overlap between these two books. The first is a thorough (over 400 pages) history. The second is more concise (about 160 pages) but it is not a subset of the first. It contains significant additional material with emphasis on recent history. (The book was  in page proofs  when the 9/11 attack occurred.) Unless you have a strong interest in Middle East history you may not find the first book interesting. I would recommend the second book for anyone who would like to know more about that region than the what is provided in TV news or newspaper articles. Click here for a detailed discussion of the second book. [posted June 2002]

Michael T. Kaufman Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire, Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
A moderately interesting book. Soros claims that his interest in philosophy has helped devise the trading strategies that made him a billionaire and the book devotes some space on discussing Soros' philosophical studies. However Soros's own son is quoted as saying that his father trades on instinct and that the philosophical explanations are "bullshit." Analyzing what makes a person a genius in the arts, music, science, or finance has never been easy (if at all possible) so the book should not faulted too much for coming up short in this respect. The most interesting parts are those dealing with Soros' youth in Hungary during WW-II when as a Jew had to exercise considerable ingenuity in order to avoid deportation. The book seems to ignore the impact of Jewish culture (with its high regard for learning) as a motivation for Soros' pursue of studies in philosophy.  [posted June 2002](Amz)