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The Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy: The Real English Patient Paperback – June 2, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014101251X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141012513
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,199,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Bierman has written many books of which the most recent is Alamein which he co-wrote with Colin Smith and which was published by Viking in 2002. Bierman, a seasoned ex-BBC television correspondent and documentary film-maker, worked as a senior sub-editor in Fleet Street and edited dailies in East Africa and the West Indies before moving in to broadcasting.

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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Jared M on February 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many readers will no doubt be familiar with the Count Almasy as portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Anthony Mingella's brilliant film "The English Patient" based on Michael Ondaajte's book of the same name. In both the film and book, Count Almasy shares a doomed passionate romance with Katherine Clifton, who dies in the desert. The Count is horrifically burnt in an aircrash attempting to retrieve the body of his lover, and later succumbs to his wounds, and his grief for Katherine, but not before recounting his tale to a caring nurse. What many people may not know, is that Count Almasy was in fact a real life figure (in fact, by name, the only true life figure in the whole film/book - all the other characters were ficticious, although a few were very loosely based on real characters with name changes), who did indeed partake in a number of desert explorations in the pre-war Libyan desert.

John Bierman (Author of "Alamein: War without hate", "Fire in the Night: Wingate of Burma, Ethiopia, and Zion" among others) has written a very engaging biography of "Count" Laszlo Almasy, peeling back the myth of Almasy, and revealing the real "Count". For a start, it seems the "Count" was not in fact a real Count - although aristocratic, his family did not possess any titles. And another thing - it seems the Count may have been a homosexual, and may have at one time had a lover in the German army.

At times, because documentary evidence concerning the Count is scarce, the content is just supposition, guesswork, and speculation. As a result, this isn't a true in-depth biography due to the lack of material, which is frustrating although no fault of the author. The book itself isn't particularly weighty, and would be completed with a few solid evenings of reading.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jared M on February 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many readers will no doubt be familiar with the Count Almasy as portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Anthony Mingella's brilliant film "The English Patient" based on Michael Ondaajte's book of the same name. In both the film and book, Count Almasy shares a doomed passionate romance with Katherine Clifton, who dies in the desert. The Count is horrifically burnt in an aircrash attempting to retrieve the body of his lover, and later succumbs to his wounds, and his grief for Katherine, but not before recounting his tale to a caring nurse. What many people may not know, is that Count Almasy was in fact a real life figure (in fact, by name, the only true life figure in the whole film/book - all the other characters were ficticious, although a few were very loosely based on real characters with name changes), who did indeed partake in a number of desert explorations in the pre-war Libyan desert.

John Bierman (Author of "Alamein: War without hate", "Fire in the Night: Wingate of Burma, Ethiopia, and Zion" among others) has written a very engaging biography of "Count" Laszlo Almasy, peeling back the myth of Almasy, and revealing the real "Count". For a start, it seems the "Count" was not in fact a real Count - although aristocratic, his family did not possess any titles. And another thing - it seems the Count may have been a homosexual, and may have at one time had a lover in the German army.

At times, because documentary evidence concerning the Count is scarce, the content is just supposition, guesswork, and speculation. As a result, this isn't a true in-depth biography due to the lack of material, which is frustrating although no fault of the author. The book itself isn't particularly weighty, and would be completed with a few solid evenings of reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Excellent piece of research work on a notoriously secretive man. He left few footprints after him except those in the desert so it was going to be a challenge for anyone to piece together a book based on fact and not rumour. And the author did a very good job. He is an expert in the North African part of WW2 but he explains that if someone was working for the secret services they are not going to announce it from the treetops and once the agent is off the scene the relevant intelligence agency is going to send in a team to clear out any incriminating evidence - hence no diaries, papers, maps etc so he had to make do with a lot of evidence from other parties not subject to Official Secrets Acts.

He speculates very little and when he does he gives the facts on which he basis is conjectures. Like Herodotus he lets you come to your own conclusions if you disagree. The only downside I found is that there is very little about the personal side of Almasy but taking the man's personality into account and his lack of interest in hiding his homosexuality it comes as no surprise that few would know what he was doing in the seedier quarters of Cairo and certainly wouldn't comment on it in diaries or letters. That part of him has to remain lost to the biographer. He had only one documented relationship and quotations are lifted from a few of the extant letters he wrote to him. He was obviously in love with him but constrained due to the war.

A very readable style too.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Step into another time with this book...intrigue and all the romance of the suggestion that this man was a spy around WWII. I wonder why people even bother to write fiction when this book is a prime example that real history is packed with the most interesting food for thought! This book was delivered in very good condition as described in it's write up. Very pleased.
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