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Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia Hardcover – November 16, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 218 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

Despite its grand, hagiographic title, one of Hero’s greatest strengths is its ability to represent Lawrence—“a scholar and warrior, an imperialist and supporter of Arab independence, a politician and rebel, a publicity seeker and recluse” (New York Times Book Review)—as a complex, multilayered figure. Korda gives a painstaking account of Lawrence’s audacious exploits, extraordinary victories, and disheartening failures. He also dissects previous biographers’ disagreements, confronts some of the most entrenched misconceptions surrounding Lawrence, and ultimately contributes to a greater understanding of Lawrence—no small feat given that nearly sixty biographies cover much the same ground. Though some critics objected to its length, Korda’s extensive research, engaging prose, and fascinating subject will ensure that this newest biography receives a hero’s welcome among readers.

From Booklist

The first 100 pages of this very lengthy biography of T. E. Lawrence will prove a trial for all readers other than military-history buffs. Once past that rocky start, however, the excessive detail of those interminable early pages becomes the rich substance of a sophisticated, rigorously pursued life-study by a distinguished editor and biographer. Lawrence—famously known as Lawrence of Arabia—has always been regarded as a vital leader, operating within the structure and goals of the British army, of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during WWI. In fact, as recalled and emphasized here, Lawrence emerged from the global conflict as the most renowned, and lasting, hero. He was an exceptional individual nearly from birth, with an early-born consciousness of his destiny as a hero. His cultivation of such awareness began during his schoolboy years, and he eventually showed his brilliance in military strategy, diplomacy, and politics. The map of the Middle East looks as it does today due in large part to Lawrence’s nearly single-handed nation building in the area as a leading fighter for Arab independence and, later, at the postwar Paris Peace Conference. The author’s fathoming of his subject’s convoluted sexuality adds not prurience to the picture but a definite human dimension. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Heavy media promotion, including an online publicity campaign targeting history and book blogs, will bring this book to a wide, and widely curious, audience. --Brad Hooper

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780061712616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061712616
  • ASIN: 0061712612
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We live in an age of celebrity as created by an immense media industry. Lawrence of Arabia embodied the word celebrity; in fact he may have been the 20th century's first real celebrity as Lindberg came after him. This book cries out to be read by a readership that understands that heroes do in fact exist. This word hero has been much misused in modern day America to apply to people that the word was never intended for.

Lawrence was very much a hero, as well as many other things. He was a military genius on a level with Napoleon. He also possessed a genius for guerilla warfare and his techniques are taught at West Point as we speak. Possessing a talent for writing, his Seven Pillars of Wisdom is considered a literary masterpiece. His direct actions changed the entire map of the Middle East, and the inability of politicians to adjust to the realities of this region that Lawrence saw so vividly have led to the chaos that we see in the Middle East today.

Sheikh Hamoud had it right when he wrote so many years ago of Lawrence:

My heart was iron, but his was steel

If you love great, gifted, writing on an immense topic describing a man that truly impacted and changed the world that he saw, than Michael Korda's biography of Lawrence of Arabia is for you. This is a 700 page narrative before footnotes and biography. The quality of the paper used in the book is fabulous, and this is due to Korda's lifetime in the publishing industry. The selection of the font and the feel of the book left nothing to chance. Korda thought through every aspect of this project and brought it off with flair, and panache.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This a very well writen and interesting book about a facinating man who lived and was a major player during a critical period in our history.

However, there are 1-3 typos on almost every page of the book I have read so far and I'm on chapter 4. Almost all of the typos involve one, two or sometimes three words bunched together to form word-abominations such as:

"himhave" "timewas" "anadventure" "discribinghis" etc.

I guess these errors were introduced when the book was digitized. I also guess that the book was not proof-read after this procedure.

These errors are begining to distract from my reading pleasure. A corrected version would be appreciated.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title HERO references Michael Korda's contention that T. E. Lawrence (T. E. Shaw, Lawrence of Arabia) wanted to become a hero and had the opportunity to become one and succeeded beyond his expectations. Thus he became one of the 20th Centuries first "celebrities" mostly due to the promotion of Lowell Thomas's highly successful lectures, films and book. Korda maintains that Lawrence was the Princes Diana of his time. (This comparison being a good way to provide today's reader with an idea of the impact Lawrence had on the media culture of his own time.)
Despite the book being a bit uneven I found HERO a wonderful read. The first part through page 114 is a rather dry telling of Lawrence's major accomplishment in World War One. It covers Lawrence's meeting with Prince Feisal the background of the Arab revolt against the Turks and the Arab taking the port city of Aqaba. (The actual events are significantly different than shown in the great David Lean film.) This early flashback section contains important information and sets the tone for what follows but I doubt many will find it to be page turning reading. But keep going and don't give up.
Because then the book takes off and is quite an enjoyable ride as Korda goes back in time to Lawrence's childhood, family, education (at Oxford), and his interest in archeology, the middle east, and crusader castles. Korda frames all this so we can see how Lawrence swept himself along with heroic self images (and many self doubts). As if Lawrence knew he was preparing himself for something big for he became one of a few who understood the Middle East. (In fact after the war Lawrence had Middle East solutions that if implemented may have minimized many of the events we see today.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a beautifully written biography of Lawrence of Arabia. Michael Korda brings back Lawrence of Arabia to our present time in such a masterful way that the reader feels himself becoming part of the story; a true story that encompasses one of the most important events of the 20th century, the first world war and the partition of the Ottoman Empire, contrary to Lawrence's idea on how the partition should be executed, into the Middle East that we now know. Korda's gift to us is not only his comprehension of events past, which are right on target, but the even flow of his writing that translates his knowledge and comprehension into scenes that are fascinating.
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By necessity consisting in large part of countless lengthy quotations from Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the author nevertheless fills in with a wealth of information and insight which I have never before seen, despite having read and re-read the work of Lawrence and many of his biographers almost religiously for many years now.

The Preface is remarkable in that it points precisely to Lawrence's unique appeal, that he was "a hero not by accident, or even by singular act of heroism, but ... made himself a hero by design ... [and] became the victim of his own fame."

The closing pages of Chapter 12 provide a touching account of Lawrence's funeral and the gifted description of his friend Robert Storrs of the moment the casket was closed.

The collection of photographs is, to me at least, by far the best I have yet seen and is well-placed in the text.

The clue to the full name of "S.A.", to whom Seven Pillars was dedicated, always and still assumed to be Dahoum, is something I have not previously noticed.

One of Lawrence's many deadpan remarks which I have seen in passing before, but which struck me as particularly stinging and even more true today, was his cynical observation that America had a "particular combination of idealism and commerce." That style is so very like many statements made by Feisal and directed at France. Of course anyone who has ever had the misfortune of working with a Frenchman is automatically an admirer of all things for which T.E. Lawrence fought.

On Iraq, Lawrence, 90 years ago, "saw very clearly that the object should never be to invade or occupy territory with troops -- a waste of time, manpower, and money -- ... but to threaten punishment from the air, and only when necessary, carry it out.
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