Twice A Stranger: Greece, Turkey and the Minorities They Expelled
Granta Books, 300 pp., £20
Bruce Clark's exploration of a conflicted history raises profound questions of politics and national identity.
When empires break up, they leave a terrible mess behind. Ordinary people then become the victims of the ambitious and unscrupulous successors of the former imperial rulers, who themselves often proved less than tender-hearted about the fate of those ordinary people. Distilling centuries of experience in this regard, the Romanian peasants had a characteristically pithy proverb: A change of rulers is the joy of fools.
The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire was highly productive of horrors, for reasons hard to summarize succinctly. It has taken me many years to appreciate what my history masters at school tried to make me understand about something they called the Eastern Question. I always wondered why it was not possible to put that question simply, for example in the form 'What is the capital of Bulgaria?' and to answer accordingly, with a fact. Now at long last I have begun to see, albeit as through a glass darkly.
To be published in the USA September, 2006.
Read the entire article on the City Journal website (new window will open).