Summer book recommendations
The summer is almost over, but I guess some of my readers have not had a chance to hit the beach, as I am still getting questions on book recommendations on Turkish politics and economy. As your friendly neighborhood economist, I am delighted to offer a few.
It is definitely no easy read, and you should definitely read it in the original German if you can, but Karl Marx’s “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon” discusses the French coup of 1851, when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte assumed dictatorial powers. After reading it, you should definitely go through our Editor-in-chief Murat Yetkin’s comparison of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with the man who became Napoleon III of the Second Empire.
Iraj Pezeshkzad’s “My Uncle Napoleon,” on the other hand, is referring to Napoleon III’s uncle, the famous Bonaparte. As explained by William Armstrong in his recent review of the book in the Hürriyet Daily News, “Uncle Napoleon” is a phrase used in Iran to refer to the belief that foreign plots lurk behind all bad events. According to Erdoğan and his phalanx of sycophantic advisors, the Jewish interest rate lobby, international media and great powers, not to mention mutants with telekinesis powers and Klingonians, were behind the Gezi protests.
Speaking of Iran, the book I am currently reading, recommended by someone whom I hold “very dear” to my heart, is notable for similarities to Turkey, if nothing else. In “Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran,” Iranian American Azadeh Moaveni, Time’s Middle East correspondent, returns to her parents’ homeland to cover the rise of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The parallels (no pun intended) to Turkey, such as the regime’s use of unsustainable economic policies to garner the public’s support, struck a chord with me. I also noticed how much I had misunderstood the Islamic Republic. Back in 2013, amidst accusations that Erdoğan was trying to turn Turkey into Iran by banning alcohol and abortion, I had written a column titled “Turkey 2014 is not Iran 1979, but Orwell’s 1984.” Moaveni’s two years of love and danger have shown me that Iran is every bit as Orwellian as Turkey. Religion is just a tool to control the people.
Last but not the least, you should definitely read Bertolt Brecht’s finest work, at least in my humble opinion, to get a perfect sense of Turkish politics and economy. “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” chronicles how a Chicago mobster grabs ahold of the cauliflower trade, plundering and murdering in abandon along the way. Making obvious references to Adolf Hitler and his cronies, it shows how one man can destroy peace, rule of law and good governance in a short period of time.
Of course, if you are interested in what evil men are capable of, there is always the Bard himself, whose works are referenced without restraint in Brecht’s play: For example, Ui is explicitly compared to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Like Macbeth’s uncle, he is visited by the ghost of one of his victims. During an oration lesson from an actor, he recites Mark Antony’s famous speech from “Julius Caesar.”
I am aware none of these books are about Turkey, let alone Turkish politics and economy. But I assure you that they are your best bets until someone writes a play titled “The Resistible Rise of Richard ‘Dick’ Herdbovine”- or Regis Talloupe, or Reginald Taylor…