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Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

Nearly a century after Lawrence of Arabia’s fame, many of his ideas about the Middle East remain prescient.

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Hero:
The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
By Michael Korda
Harper
762 pp.

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First Tunisia, then Egypt. Who’s next?

Those stunning liberations, driven by the so-called Arab street in recent weeks, seem poised to hopscotch to other countries in the Middle East, a prospect that would, no doubt, make Lawrence of Arabia smile.

Nearly a century after Lawrence became the most famous British military hero in World War I, many of his ideas and tactics in the Middle East remain prescient.

His guerrilla warfare strategies remain potent, as the improvised explosive devices of contemporary Iraq – a nation Lawrence created – make painfully clear.
And though Lawrence was political in his own way, he saw the need for Arab independence, pushing, in vain, for greater self-determination across that region during the Paris Peace Conference as the Western powers carved up the region with imperial interests at the forefront.

Those points resonate again and again in Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, Michael Korda’s lengthy new biography of Lawrence, a brilliant, idiosyncratic man who remains misunderstood despite (or because of) decades of biographies and the epic 1962 movie based on his life starring Peter O’Toole.

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