26 January 2010
Americans with relatives in the earthquake-ravaged country can’t even get our bureaucrats on the phone.
By chance, my father and I were together when we heard the news. We had both just flown to Washington DC—he from Paris, I from Istanbul—to care for my grandmother, who’d had a heart attack. Before the words “major earthquake in Haiti” came over the car radio, we had been under the impression that we were living through a serious family emergency. Then we learned what those words really mean.
ISTANBUL Shafts of misty light pierce the steam of the Ca?alo?lu hamam in Istanbul’s Eminönü district, once the heart of walled Constantinople and the seat of the Ottoman Sultanate. Built by Sultan Mahmud I in 1741 to provide revenue for the Haghia Sophia mosque, its marble rooms are opulent, timeless pleasure-domes of fountains and gilded columns. In the women’s section, a pleasant gabble of feminine voices mingles with the sound of sluicing water; the bathers gossip languidly, gently washing one another’s hair. Nothing could be more authentically Turkish than this.
Or so the tourists like to imagine it.
ISTANBUL As officials at the European Capital of Culture Agency here know all too well, once you’ve been named a Capital of Culture, it's only a matter of time before the "Capital of Corruption" jokes start.
The world is vanishing from Americans’ awareness.
22 December 2009
If you get your news from the sources most Americans do, you will not know that India recently test-fired the Agni II, an intermediate-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Nor will you know the test’s results, which were reported all over the subcontinent but not in America. You will probably be unaware of Sergei Magnitsky’s death in a Moscow prison, or of who he was; the news was barely reported in the United States.
Communism’s Defeat, 20 Years Later
Several weeks ago, the British press, led by the Times of London, reported “explosive” evidence from Soviet archives indicating that Margaret Thatcher—of all people!—had tried to keep the Berlin Wall from falling. Indeed, said the paper, she secretly urged Mikhail Gorbachev to “do what he could to stop it.” The Times based this revelation on Kremlin notes, still officially classified, of a Moscow meeting between Thatcher and Gorbachev in September 1989. These and many other documents were spirited out of Russia in 2003 by Pavel Stroilov, a researcher at the Gorbachev Foundation. MARGARET THATCHER WANTED BERLIN WALL TO STAY, reported the Australian. MR. GORBACHEV, KEEP THIS WALL UP! marveled The Economist, leading the article with a breathless “WHOA.” Andrew Sullivan titled his blog entry MARGARET THATCHER, SECRET DEFENDER OF SOVIET SECURITY, declaring the news “staggering.” But these are all mischaracterizations and misunderstandings of the Kremlin document; nothing about it is shocking in the least.
November 3, 2009
ISTANBUL Some of the writers who gathered on Tuesday evening to read selections from their work at the D& R bookstore on Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s main pedestrian boulevard, had trouble understanding one another. The reading was one of dozens of events held city-wide as part of the four-day long, inaugural Tanp?nar Literature Festival, organized by Istanbul’s Kalem literary agency. The festival, billed as the city's first international event of its kind, attracted some 90 writers from 32 countries. It featured readings, debates, book signings and lectures on topics ranging from “Being European,” to “Trends in International Publishing.” But translators were in scarce supply, with predictable consequences: Turkish and foreign authors found each other mutually incomprehensible. This was the very problem the festival was meant to redress.
October 10, 2009
In Beyo?lu, north of the Golden Horn on the European side of Istanbul, it is almost impossible to walk down the crowded streets without passing a film crew. But this is not a world of ripped abs and bronzed silicon starlets. These Turkish filmmakers are wan and drawn, desperately earnest, deeply preoccupied with Turkey's rapid social transformation. The one thing they have in common with their Hollywood confreres is a sense that the film industry is a good place to make money. About that, they are right.
Immigration, Islam, and the West
By Christopher Caldwell
Doubleday. 422 pp. $30
Ten years after a devastating earthquake, a First Post writer finds building regulators are still fatally corrupt
JULY 27, 2009
Almost 10 years ago exactly, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Turkey, killing as many as 40,000 people. Thousands were crushed in their beds when their buildings, such as the one pictured above in Kaynasli, collapsed.
An outcry ensued over the shoddy construction material, loose building codes and widespread corruption among licensing officials: these were correctly blamed for the high death toll. Seismologists warn the next quake will be much nearer to Istanbul, which lies directly on the fault line.
At noon last Monday, I was in my apartment in Istanbul when I heard an explosion. The building shook. Furniture in my apartment fell over, and books flew off my shelf. Everyone in the neighbourhood began screaming.