This is the exciting and highly literate story of the real Lawrence of Arabia, as written by Lawrence himself, who helped unify Arab factions against the occupying Turkish army, circa World War I. Lawrence has a novelist's eye for detail, a poet's command of the language, an adventurer's heart, a soldier's great story, and his memory and intellect are at least as good as all those. Lawrence describes the famous guerrilla raids, and train bombings you know from the movie, but also tells of the Arab people and politics with great penetration. Moreover, he is witty, always aware of the ethical tightrope that the English walked in the Middle East and always willing to include himself in his own withering insight.
Almost a century after the first Arab spring the 1916-18 revolt against the Ottoman empire, culminating in the triumphant capture of Damascus modern Arabia is still a war zone. More than half the articles in my latest Talking Newspapers Digest are about the Middle East what better reason to listen to a new unabridged version of this monumental account of the author's leading role in that earlier historic desert campaign, which made him one of the great legendary heroes of all time. The version I reviewed five years ago was so savagely abridged, you only really got the facts, and facts weren't TE's strong suit. Seven Pillars
has been called a novel travelling under the cover of autobiography. I prefer the 1930s reviewer who said 'Lawrence has a novelist's eye for detail, a poet's command of the language, an adventurer's heart, a soldier's great story and his memory and intellect are at least as good as all those.' 'The heat of Arabia came out like a drawn sword and struck us speechless.' No one captures the beauty, the cruelty and immensity of the desert and its tribes as brilliantly as Lawrence. Thanks to his extensive prewar travels in Syria and Mesopotamia, he understood their manners, their mentality, their language. He was fluent in Arabic, Greek, Turkish and Syriac as well as French, German and Latin. In native dress he could pass as a Circassian shepherd. His recruitment by British intelligence in Cairo was inevitable, likewise his subsequent mission to unite the numerous warring Arab factions against the Turks and their German allies. In 1916 he had a price of £15,000 (£1m in today's money) on his head. But when, having led the Arab camel cavalry across the Negev desert to victory at Aqaba, Lawrence on a recce in Turkish-held Deraa was randomly taken in for questioning, the Bey accepted his Circassian shepherd cover story. He was flogged and gang-raped before being thrown out normal practice. Had he been recognised, death would have been a mercy. It's a long book but there's no way that the abridged version would have inspired David Lean to such cinematic heights. Lawrence was a complex man brave, intelligent, passionate, a reluctant hero deeply troubled by his divided British/Arab loyalties. He was truly the last of the gentleman adventurers. --Sue Arnold, The Guardian
Known to most as Lawrence of Arabia, T.E. Lawrence was a passionate chronicler of Middle East military events during WWI, in which he was embedded. This book is his story. Narrator Roy McMillan conveys Lawrence's sincerity with a calm yet enthusiastic delivery, depicting a man fascinated with the world around him. Through McMillan's compassionate reading we can better understand how Lawrence found sympathy for the Arab cause of an Arab state at a time when the region was mostly tribal. Those seeking a wider understanding of the Middle East will be enlightened by Lawrence's observations of the land and its people during this pivotal development period. --AudioFile Magazine