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Homes Away

Another side of Kurds and Romans

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From 1996 to 2000 Stephen Kinzer was the first Istanbul bureau chief for the New York Times. He delves into Turkey’s complexity in his seventh book, Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future, due out this month. “Like everybody who lives in Turkey, I became fascinated with that country,” he says, explaining his desire to profile Turkey’s Kurds (“Heritage Reclaimed,”). But he didn’t want to focus on the political or military conflict. “What I wanted to do was look at the Kurds’ underlying culture in Turkey, how it has survived and how it is being reborn in a new generation.” In the process he discovered an aspect that had eluded him as a war correspondent: the Kurds’ “openness, unlimited hos-pitality, warmth, friendship and tremendous hope.” Kinzer’s favorite quotation in the article captures that feeling: “We know how to die,” a Kurdish nomad told him, “but we also know how to live.”

“A theme that constantly comes up as you learn more about Roman societies,” says Paul Bennett, “is how modern they seem to us. You go to Hadrian’s villa, and it feels like Camp David. The same impulses are there: to get out of the city, to imprint your view of the world on the landscape. That’s fascinating to me.” Bennett, who lived in Rome for five years, wrote our cover story about the rural retreats of Rome’s emperors (“Home Away From Rome,”). He is especially interested in how a concept—beauty, or progress—is transmitted through different time periods. “With this story I was interested in how the ancients lived and how current scholarship is connecting different pieces of that story together in new ways. Usually you think of history as those people—totally disconnected from us today, totally pre-modern—who exist on a shelf somewhere under dust. And yet there are things that do connect to us, and none more so than the ancient Romans.”

Next month we celebrate our 40th anniversary with a special combined July-August issue. Its theme? “40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years.” We’re proud of it.

About Carey Winfrey
Carey Winfrey

Carey Winfrey was Smithsonian magazine's editor in chief for ten years, from 2001 to 2011.

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