Review: Salonica, City of Ghosts

“They all claimed the city for themselves in God’s name. But is it not said: Where God is, there is everything?”

Nearly five hundred years of history for a city I had never heard of in a land I knew next to nothing about could have been overwhelming, but the book is so well-written and the story so colorful. Three things that struck me:
1. The residents of Salonica lived a remarkably ungoverned life. The Ottoman state simply did not interfere all that much in the lives of its citizens. The benign neglect described seems benign indeed compared to the all-encompassing modern states we live in.
2. The Jews of Salonica fled the ethnic cleansing of Christian Spain, lived 450 years untroubled under Muslim rule only to be wiped out within 45 years of falling under the Christians again.
3. The 20th century rise of the nation-state and the ideal of separate pure homelands for each group of people on earth was and is such a huge ugly disaster.
Our pasts are so long and our futures so short. I hope I live to see the post-nationalist future emerge.

Salonica City of Ghosts, by Mark Mazower on GoodReads


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