John Murray £10.99 (470pp) £9.89 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Levant, By Philip Mansel
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Friday 07 October 2011
Mansel has few equals as a historian of the Ottoman empire. Here, he turns all his gift for atmosphere and exposition on three cities that embodied the tolerant charm of the eastern Med before the shutters - nationalist and sectarian - fell.
Via sumptuous portraits of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut, he fixes the Levant as a mindset more than a location, a cosmopolitan sphere of "deals not ideals".
Smart bargaining and gracious living counted for more than cult or race. This was, as he shows, an imperial dream, which throve under watchful Ottomans as foreign traders – many British – won concessions in the Sultan's lands.
A new age of strident faith, political or religious, has wrecked that old order. This book savours its "fragrance of freedom".
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election