Lawrence was a brilliant propagandist, rhetorician and manipulator, who deliberately turned his life into a conundrum. But who was the real man behind the masks? This work set out to solve this riddle and discovers a hero whose greatness owed as much to his weaknesses as to his strengths.
'The best life of Lawrence yet published' - The Express Lawrence was a brilliant propagandist, rhetorician and manipulator, who deliberately turned his life into a conundrum. But who was the real man behind the masks? Lawrence began the GreatWar as a map-clerk and ended it as one of the greatest military heroes of the 20th century. He altered the face of the Middle East, helped to lead the Arabs to freedom and formulated modern guerilla warfare. Yet he refused any honours and spent therest of his life in near obscurity. Desert explorer and Arabist, Michael Asher, set out to solve this riddle and discovers a hero whose greatness owed as much to his weaknesses as to his strengths.
Michael Asher has served in the Parachute Regiment and the SAS. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has won the Ness Award of the Royal Geographical Society and the Mungo Park Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society for Exploration. All four of his Death or Glory novels are available from Penguin in paperback and ebook.
T E Lawrence is one of the great 20th-century English military heroes - the modest clerk who became Lawrence of Arabia, leading the Arabs to freedom from Turkish domination; the first true guerrilla fighter who also wrote at least one literary classic - The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Asher tells his story forcefully and well but also explores the inner Lawrence: a masochist terrified of pain, but seeking and overcoming it; a homosexual trapped by the conventions of the time; a selfless man of great personal vanity. By far the best of a considerable number of attempts to understand the man. (Kirkus UK)
A biography of T.E. Lawrence, of the linear narrative, pop-psychology school. Asher, himself an explorer and author of numerous books (A Desert Dies, 1987, etc,) braids his rudimentary psychologizing with a chronological approach to Lawrence's life, from his Oxford youth in the "long bright Indian summer of Old England before the Great War changed the world forever," to the motorcycle crash that terminated his "masochistic world of reverse values - for him pain was pleasure, servitude freedom, and self-denial orgiastic self-indulgence." Asher sees most everything in Lawrence's life filtered through that lens of masochism, the roots of which he finds in Lawrence's mother's smothering embrace. Crippled by all the attention, Lawrence assumed a "self-fashioned mantle of oddness": awkward, remote, homosexual at a time when it could earn you a jail term, thriving where his English mates dwindled - in places such as the Near East, where he first went on archaeological digs. The relations Lawrence struck with the Arabs were characterized by the "paternal benevolence of the autocrat," according to Asher, and Arabia was a fantasy land wherein he could play out his youthful obsessions with the medieval, slipping into Arab garb, finding "a delight in being that 'baron in the feudal system', a European in the East." Lawrence's role in the Arab Revolt is treated as straight rousing military history. It gives Asher, who follows in Lawrence's footsteps for much of the book, a chance to add some corrections to the Lawrencian legend; for instance, it takes three full days to cross Sinai, not the fabled 49 hours. Then came the postwar, odd-peg years; evidently uncomfortable outside of the military, he tries to reenlist; the hero goes looking for the oblivion of the enlisted man, "towards degradation, poverty, self-denial and enslavement," that reverse exhibitionism learned at his mother's knee. "Lawrence was perhaps the first international megastar of the century," Asher suggests, and this rather narrow biography pays due homage. (Kirkus Reviews)