Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 - The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance

Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 - The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance

Book rating: 04 Paperback Sceptre

By (author) Giles Milton

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  • Publisher: Sceptre
  • Format: Paperback | 448 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 32mm | 300g
  • Publication date: 28 May 2009
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 034083787X
  • ISBN 13: 9780340837870
  • Illustrations note: 3 B&W illustrated maps and 2x 8pp B&W picture sections
  • Sales rank: 38,628

Product description

On Saturday 9th September, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire. What happened over the next two weeks must rank as one of the most compelling human dramas of the twentieth century. Almost two million people were caught up in a disaster of truly epic proportions. PARADISE LOST is told with the narrative verve that has made Giles Milton a bestselling historian. It unfolds through the memories of the survivors, many of them interviewed for the first time, and the eyewitness accounts of those who found themselves caught up in one of the greatest catastrophes of the modern age.

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Author information

Giles Milton is a writer and historian. He is the bestselling author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Big Chief Elizabeth, The Riddle and the Knight, White Gold, Samurai William, Paradise Lost and, most recently, Wolfram. He has also written two novels and two children's books, one of them illustrated by his wife Alexandra. He lives in South London.

Customer reviews

By John Middleton 02 Nov 2010 4

Smyrna 1922 is upsetting to read: there is always a disaster lurking in the background, and when it happens it is horrible indeed. The consequences of war are all too often visited on innocent civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this, the closing chapter of the Ottoman Empire, is no exception.

Giles Milton once again has picked out a little bit of history and expanded a complete story out of it (Nathaniel's Nutmeg is an example of a tiny hinge of fate, for instance). This time around, the focus is on Smyrna (Izmir), once a thriving trade port on the coast of Asia Minor. The Levantines - European expats - ran a mercantile community, employing a large chunk of the local populace. Smyrna was a mixed city, with Greeks, Armenians and Turks, as well as the Europeans, and a thriving American expat community.

All this was lost with the disastrous expedition into Anatolia by the Greek army in 1922. There is an early wrinkle in with the revocation of the concessions - trade relaxations - on which this foreign fortune was built, with this being a source of apparent pride among local Turks, but this merely silent foreshadowing of the disaster to come.

In between, we see Smyrna during WWI under Rahmi Bey, and under Greek annexation in 1919. Through all this there is a "ancien regime" feeling in the air: old power and wealth about to be lost in a sea of blood. As it turns out, the blood was largely shed by the servants of the Levantines - a point deftly made by Milton - and Smyrna stands a proxy for the genocide of the period, bu Greek and Turk alike.

That is the facts of the book neatly; I won't all cover it over again in any greater detail than I have above. What is horrifying (and occasionally uplifting) is the reactions of various civilised men and women to the fall of Smyrna, and how much easier it is to do evil to others than to do good in such a time.

This is an excellent study of little-known history, told like a novel. This is the horror of war, from the point of view of the civilians who suffered rather than the soldiers that fought and died.

Review quote

Giles Milton ... has crafted an inspiration for those of us who believe that history can be exciting and entertaining The Times Giles Milton's brilliant re-creation of the last days of Smyrna Sunday Times Giles Milton's powerful narrative of the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe is compelling ... incidents of heroism among the carnage, give this tale of ethnic cleansing a rare immediacy. Telegraph Engrossing ... Milton's book celebrates the heroism of individuals who put lives before ideologies Independent The sack of that famously cosmopolitan city ... makes a compelling story. It is also a strikingly neglected one ... Milton's considerable achievement is to deliver with characteristic clarity and colour this complex epic narrative ... Milton brings commendable impartiality to his thoroughly researched book ... PARADISE LOST proves a timely examination of a defining moment in the history of ethnic and religious conflict Sunday Telegraph PARADISE LOST is a timely reminder of the appalling cost of expansionist political ambitions; it tells a fascinating story with clarity and insight Economist PARADISE LOST is essential reading for anyone who cares about the past - and present - of today's Europe, indeed of civilisation itself Adam LeBor, Literary Review Giles Milton ... has written his best book to date Scotland on Sunday [Milton is] a master of historical narrative The Sunday Times Milton has a terrific eye for the kind of detail that can bring the past vividly to life off the page ... restores an exotic lustre Spectator Milton is a great storyteller ... he conjures mood from dry parchment Express on Sunday Milton has written a grimly memorable book William Dalrymple, Sunday Times