How to Lose a Country

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Member Reviews

I am not normally one for reading books on populism, however, I found the parallels drawn by the author on what has happened in Turkey and what is happening around the rest of the world.  It's an eye opener and scary as we are living in these times - recommended reading.
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This was a really interesting book, part memoir, part primer on how politicians can foster nationalism and sow the seeds for dictatorship. I must confess I didn't know much about politics in Turkey but the book was informative and a warning. It's not a happy book, but well worth your time.
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While I had expected this book to be more relevant to the current climate in Britain, US and Europe, the content is concentrated on the changing political and societal state of Turkey through the rise of president Erdogan. There is an attempt by the author to relate the popular split in Turkey with that of Britain and the US through the global rise of populism, the ‘real people’, in parallel with an authoritarian president and the ensuing displacement of its citizens. Not an easy read and one to raise questions about the popularity of right-wing politics.
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A salient and very powerful warning about how quickly a country can descend into authoritarianism. Using Turkey as an example, Temelkuran draws parallels with how populism is increasing across the world and suggests ways in which to avoid following its example.  The quality of the writing is also very high, for example in its suggestion that stories are "penicillin for diseases of the human soul". Timely and scary.
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As a Turkish woman living in England, this was a must read for me. I do know very well what's happening in Turkey, and watch with fear and sadness in my heart. 
Temelkuran did a fantastic job telling how this country changed under the government. It's very access-able and personal. It was horrifying to read, but I really recommend to everyone to read this, because 'discriminative' hate-based governments are everywhere. Same things are happening with Brexit or under Trump. 
Her writing and story telling is amazing. 

I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Thanks a lot to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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In her new, excellent  book, How to Loose a Country, Ece Temelkuran talks about the challenges that democracy currently is facing. Is an excellent and painful book to read. It mixes personal experience, she looks what has happened to Turkey, but it is much broader than that. Ece Temelkuran looks globally, what’s happening across Europe and the world, and she points out the dangers to democracy. What she basically tells us is: Look, these are the dangers, the warning signs, if you will, this is how you lose a county. 

Highly recommended.
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This highly intelligent, passionate and also very horrifying account is a book of the moment. The author has lost her country already (she's living exiled in Zagreb) and issues a warning: To all those other countries whose residents seems to be astonished, if not completely baffled by certain election or referendum results and the consequences. Questions such as: How did Trump become president? How did the Brexit become a thing? How come there's a right wing party in my country's parliament? Any of this rings a bell? If so, read this book. No matter how far your country is or isn't: How to Lose a Country is an impassioned plea, a warning to the world that populism and nationalism don’t march fully-formed into government; they creep. So true.

Ece Temelkuran uses her experience: Of how her motherland Turkey became "her" president Erdoğan's state with all its consequences. She presents seven steps to look out for, seven steps Erdoğan and his party took to transform Turkey. "Create a movement", "terrorise language" and "remove the shame" are three of these steps. Each step (chapter) is filled with examples, little anectdotes serving as warning signs - and even I, who's always wary on this topic and quite careful (if not pessimistic), was astonished by the amount of parallels to be found. Horrifying indeed.

So, what can be done? Or rather, what shouldn't be done? Ece Temelkuran dwells on these questions, too, and even though she doesn't have a general solution (then again, who has?), it becomes clear that reading this book and starting to see is clearly the first step on a very long way. But we need to start down this path, otherwise, the other side (and their followers, aka the "real" people of [insert your country here]) will take just another step. And another. And then, it might be too late to become aware, let alone act upon it. National solutions won't be enough, says the author, and mocking the face on front of the movement won't make the movement go away. An international, broader, louder debate is needed.

The chapter "Create your own citizen" is the one that spoke to me most, for it is also focussing a lot on women's issues/feminism - as it details how women are always the first to "go down" in such a system. Be it a president who doesn't even try to hide his misogyny, be it a party who promises to bring back "the good old structures" (as in, you know, bring women back into their deignated role as housewife and mother only - sister, if that's your choice, all the power to you, but it should be a choice, not the only default option).

Ece Temelkuran is a gifted journalist, she's got a knack for stringing together episodes and seemingly random tidbits which don't seem to fit at first - but when you take two, three steps back and look at the larger picture, you see a work of art.

This is one of the books to read these days. The German version, "Wenn dein Land nicht mehr dein Land ist oder Sieben Schritte in die Diktatur" is out on April 1st 2019. Highly recommended.
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For anyone who has been paying attention to the political and cultural climate in the west over the last few years How to Lose a Country will possibly make for an difficult and frightening - but perhaps not altogether surprising - read.  

Temelkuran pulls from her own personal experiences from her homeland in Turkey which she is currently living in exile from after penning a number of articles critical of Erdogan's government.  The author refreshingly steers clear of political jargon and has a very accessible style of writing.  Her observations regarding the rise of populism and the attacks on institutions across numerous countries in a post-truth world makes for a sobering, but horrifyingly recognisable read.

How to Lose a Country offers no solutions, but perhaps preparation, on how to live in what looks like a increasingly dark period in time.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

With thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.  Will post over to Goodreads.
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An interesting take on recent world events:
In "How To Lose A Country" by Ece Temelkuran, the author makes an argument that the events leading up to the recent coup in Turkey and subsequent Erdogan autocracy, should provide a wake-up call for all Western democratic politicians. Indeed she further argues that many of the seeds of dissent have already been sown. Populism and nationalism do not necessarily march fully formed into government. Citing the examples of the unexpected election of President Trump and the Brexit victory in the UK referendum.
Whilst no doubt lessons are always to be learnt from such events the history of Turkey is so different from that of other "Western" nations that I took issue with many of the conclusions drawn. That said, debate does none of us any harm and if the book can encourage discussion and teach caution then it will have served the author's purpose.
Well written and researched, this is an interesting read. Even if you disagree with the parallels drawn.
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Sadly I really struggled.
It just wasn’t for me. 
Thank you to both NetGalley and 4th Estate for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest unbiased review
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This is absolutely stellar, and a must read for anyone interested in 'rising populism' and the threats to democracy worldwide. The author writes with clarity and precision, leaving nothing to chance and using real world examples to back up her points. Her evidence is unquestionably of good quality and she builds in her own life experiences in commentary and journalism to defend her positions. 

Aside from that, the concept here is quite frightening. That the world we knew and built so well on science and evidence, basic truths, can be so easily undone by nonsense and lies, is hard to swallow. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart.
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A perfect presentation of recent developments in Turkey and as a fellow Turkish women I felt proud to share the same past with Temelkuran. There's little to feel good about my country and people like Temelkuran are part of this.
The events in Turkey are so similar to aftermath of Brexit and Trump. The rise of populism and how easy to manipulate masses with hate couldn't have been told better. 5 stars. A must read.
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How To Lose A Country is probably going to be the most depressing and the most horrifying book I will read this year. Especially because it is nonfiction. Temelkuran's explanations of how her Turkish homeland fell under Erdogan's spell rang scarily true with what I am seeing happening across Brexit Britain and across Trump's America too. The irony isn't lost on me of the Leave campaign's threat of millions of immigrating Turks should we remain in the EU 'when' Turkey joined - when what those very same men would actually love to import is the current Turkish democratic system!



A couple of years ago I read Karl Billinger's 1939 essay Hitler Is No Fool in which that author attempted to explain how easily a nation's people can be manipulated into acting against their own interests. Temelkuran's How To Lose A Country shows that very little of the methodology has changed in the past eighty years. Indeed much of the British rhetoric I hear is nostalgic hankering for 'our glorious past',  seemingly a want to return us all to an imagined version of that wartime society although, as Temelkuran repeatedly warns from her Turkish experience, we are highly likely to end up living as if we were on the Other Side. I found myself in agreement with all her observations and sadly recognising disturbingly similar versions of conversations I have had since 2016 with numerous people who, while incapable of actually defending or explaining their statements and viewpoints, nonetheless expect me to blindly agree because they can shout louder. All marketing and no substance used to be a joke, now apparently it's really the future.



Temelkuran now writes from Croatia, exiled from Turkey because expressing free opinion is no longer acceptable. She has lost her country and cannot envisage herself regaining it any time soon. I wonder how much longer I will be able to think of Britain as my country?
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This is a timely book about the slow but sure way that democracy is being eroded around the world, written by a journalist who has first-hand experience of her country’s descent into dictatorship.  Ece Temelkuran feels that she has lost her country – Turkey – since the rise of Erdoğan, accompanied by the curtailment of freedom of speech and the imprisonment of all dissenting voices.  Turkey, as it has become, is no longer her country.    
This book is a warning to all those of us who are lucky enough to still live in free, working democracies.  It outlines the danger signs to look out for, the slow and insidious changes – that if not challenged – can all too easily lead to tyranny.  “For those who have already lost a country, the way not to lose one couldn’t be clearer. Our mistake wasn’t that we didn’t do what we could have done, rather that we didn’t know that we should have done it earlier. We were too busy doing what might be called pseudo-understanding”.  
The author wants to make it clear, that this sort of erosion of democracy can happen ANYWHERE.  She points out the recent rise in populism and the far right throughout the world, with particular attention given to the victories of Trump in USA and the Brexit vote in Britain.  
The book is very well-written and engaging, and really makes you much more aware of what is going on politically and socially, around you.  There are several of her points that particularly struck me. 
1)	“human nature needs meaning and desperately seeks reasons to live, creates fertile ground for the invention of causes, and sometimes the most groundless or shallowest ones.” … We need to “recognise that a cause and its ability to provide meaning can be more powerful than any war machine man has ever made.”  “The masses’ desperate craving is met with a simple story in which the villain is obvious: the elite, the witch women, the foreigners, the traitors, or whoever.”
Belief in the righteousness of the cause becomes akin to belief in a religion, so rational arguments will not change opinions.  Just because something is blatantly untrue, does not mean that it cannot be believed and accepted – or the truth can just be declared irrelevant.  “Countless people in several countries have found themselves … having to defend the truth against those who just don’t feel like believing them.”  Instead of trying to understand and debating with your opponents, your time is much better spent enlarging your own supporter base, and convincing people who are either wavering, or not currently engaged – build a bigger movement.
2)	Each cause needs an enemy to take all the blame for the supporter’s real or imagined woes: “‘It’s not you,’ he told them. ‘It’s them who prevent us from being great.’ He gave them something solid to hate, and they gave him their votes”.  “they had become the ‘oppressive elite’ – if not ‘fascists’ – despite the fact that some of them had dedicated their lives to the emancipation of the very masses who now held them in such contempt”.
3)	Keep an ear out for the phrase “real people”, roughly translated by ‘anyone supporting the cause’, but never fully defined.  In the Brexit debate one is continually reminded that ‘the People have spoken’, and their decision must be obeyed or democracy will fall.  It is apparently democratic to destroy the country and its economy in a slender vote based on misinformation, hatred and lies, but is NOT democratic to have another referendum, now that the situation (and the potential damage) has become much clearer.
4)	 “It is better to acknowledge – and sooner rather than later – that this is not merely something imposed on societies by their often absurd leaders, … it also arises from the grassroots.”  “It is not the emperor who pushes you to the edge of the arena to become merely a disassociated observer, but his subjects.”  
5)	 Once a dictatorship starts to form, many people have a vested interest in seeing it continue.  “This giant web that connected big finance and daily bread to political grants … formed the bedrock of Erdoğan’s support, and enabled his devotees to transform the state apparatus until the state became synonymous with its leader. … Eventually the idea that ‘When Erdoğan is gone, Turkey is destroyed’ was not just a myth manufactured by the propaganda machine, but a solid political reality that meant an entire lifeline would be cut if Erdoğan lost power.”  
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with the capacity for rational thought – regardless of their political leanings.  Dictatorships are just as prevalent on the left as on the right.  
If the warning signs are ignored, it may soon become too late to save your country.
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As Ece Temelkuran writes in the closing paragraph, this book is her answer to a question she asked in London in 2016 which was "what can I do for you". What she has done in a remarkably readable book devoid of impenetrable political jargon is to give the warning signs that show whether you are on the road to losing your country and what are the implications to the individual if you do. Temulkuran rather exasperatingly mentions  that one of the most common questions asked by the audiences at the meetings, conferences and book signings where she speaks is the question of whether there is any hope, I must admit that after reading this book I actually think there is but it will take a determined effort to confront and defeat the increasingly intolerant and authoritarian threat that populism poises to the still democratically functioning democracies. 

Ece Temelkuran tells of her bitter and painful experiences derived from her native Turkey where she was fired from the Turkish daily newspaper Habertürk after writing articles critical of the government. Now living in exile she recounts the early days of the The Justice and Development Party and following its ascension to power the sustained attacks that have taken place on the checks and balances that are there to defend a free society against the power of an unrestricted state. As the book shows this is particularly evident with regard to the judiciary and the free press. Of course the word populism denotes many variants and each country has its own specifics but generally today the most successful populists tend to be politically on the radical right with a doctrine combining nativism, attacking the so called liberal establishment and a nostalgia for a supposedly bygone golden past. Added to this toxic mixture is the required authoritarianism that is needed to achieve their objectives.

There are many interesting observations made by Temelkuran including it is a waste of time trying to debate and change the mind of the avowed populist supporter but rather this energy should be directed in creating dialogue and co-operation of those opposed to them and also never underestimate the populist and their cause. If you are looking for an impassioned polemical book of the age that is written with clarity and personally derived insight then this should certainly be something to consider.
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I want to shout from the rooftops about this book but I'm not sure my words can do it justice. It is certainly not my usual type of read, a quick scroll through my past posts will certainly indicate that. This, however may well be one of the books strong points. It is not my usual type of read but at no point did I feel lost in political jargon. The author has presented an entirely readable book, about an incredibly important issue in the world today.
As I write this we are still discussing Brexit, there are riots in France, and Venezuela is falling to pieces. Let's not even talk about the USA. Yes, this is a book that needs to be read as soon as possible. 
This book is part memoir, part lesson. I found it engrossing, informative and eye-opening. I'm not going to lie, some of the points that were true eye openers, and some of the points that Ece made showed me just how much I had fallen for. 
There aren't very many books that I would say have changed my view-point on the world, or on the political landscape. But this is one of them.  An excellent look at the rise in populism and the lessons that we should have already learned from experience. 5 Stars.
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A little while ago a friend asked me if I thought that we were living through what in years to come would be discussed by A level history students when faced with the question Discuss the factors which led to... I agreed that she was right and wasn't certain whether it was a good or bad thing that we didn't know what all 'this' was leading to. I think now that I do know. We are in danger of losing democracy and whilst it's a flawed system I can't think of a better one, particularly as the 'benevolent dictator' is as rare as hen's teeth.

Ece Temelkuran is one of Europe's most prominent political thinkers. If you are on the right you won't agree that she's well-regarded and if you're on the Turkish right wing then you'll probably believe that she should be in prison. She's not watched Turkey slide into dictatorship under Recep Tayyip Erdogan with rigged elections, cronyism and the imprisoning of those who oppose him: she was involved in the resistance and has given us what amounts a field guide to the mechanisms of the far right populism which is sweeping the globe. We're shown what happened in Turkey and we see the parallels as they happen in a wider context.

There's a soundtrack to what's happening and even having read Temelkuran's book I'm conscious that the words creep into my mind. It's the phrase it couldn't happen here. People said it on the day of the Brexit vote. American friends said it as Trump supporters chanted build that wall, but he was still elected. Wherever 'here' is, we can no longer be content that it won't happen. We must be aware of the signs and we must act before it's too late as nationalism isn't an option which will be presented to us at the ballot box, but a movement which creeps into our lives insidiously.

The writing is impassioned, but with stunning clarity of thought It's eloquent and very readable: frighteningly so, in fact. I ceased to be reassured that Trump is a clown and surely can't last, or that Boris Johnson is a buffoon who surely could never be elected as I read about why they do what they do. There is method here: diversionary tactics to cover a real purpose. Perhaps the main points which I took away from the book are that one should never underestimate an opponent, or believe that just because groups see themselves as real people and infantilise political debate, they do not have considerable power. As for how the book left me feeling, I'll confess that it was 'depressed'. The book is stronger on the symptoms of the disease than on the cure and I felt impotent to help the country which I'm leaving to my grandchildren.

I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.
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