July 07, 2008

books of note: Ocalan's Prison Writings

Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilisation (Hardcover)

by Abdullah Ocalan (Author), Klaus Happel (Translator)
3.0 out of 5 stars (2 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews
Product Description
Abudullah Öcalan was the most wanted man in Turkey for almost two decades until his kidnapping and arrest in 1999. He has been in prison ever since. He is the founder of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). From 1984, under his leadership, the PKK fought for an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey. In a sustained popular uprising, tens of thousands of PKK guerrillas took on the second largest army in NATO.

Since his imprisonment, Öcalan has written extensively in Kurdish history. This book brings together his writings for the first time. Breathtaking in scope, it provides a broad Marxist perspective on ancient Middle Eastern history, incorporating the rise of the major religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and defining the Kurdish position within this, from the ancient Sumerian civilization through the feudal age, the birth of capitalism, and beyond.

"Very readable. It is a tour-de-force."
---Ghada Talhami, D. K. Pearsons Professor of Political, Lake Forest College

"We would expect Abudullah Öcalan to write a political treatise. Instead, he has penned a monumental history of the ancient Near East that offers a grand vision. . . . This is the first truly postcolonial history of Mesopotamia."
---Randall H. McGuire, Professor of Anthropology, Binghamton University

11 of 18 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars I'd strongly recommend this book to everyone studying the Middle East, October 25, 2007
By Robert Hood (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
When I bought this book, I expected rampant propaganda by a guerrilla leader, and instead I found a well-written, insightful and philosophical account of the roots of civilization and how these roots have influenced the peoples in the Middle East.

Filled with many "AHA!" and "Eureka" experiences, Ocalan's book was a big piece of a puzzle I have long sought after. Seeking answers in the root of civilization, Ocalan gives his view on how the early civilization's search for a higher power (meaning/purpose of life? origin of life? etc..) helped setting up organized religion, and how these organized religions regulated developments in areas such as moral values and ethics. When did the human lose control of her own destiny? Reading this book might give us a clue or two.

To my surprise, I learned that Abdullah Ocalan had, before he became a oppositional Kurdish guerrilla leader, studied at the Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences. I am well aware of this faculty as the breeding ground for Turkey's political elite. I'm looking forward to more publications of Ocalan in English.

I'd strongly recommend this book to every serious student of Middle Eastern studies.

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