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Hero : The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
by Michael Korda

Overview -

Michael Korda's Hero is the story of an epic life on a grand scale: a revealing, in-depth, and gripping biography of the extraordinary, mysterious, and dynamic Englishman whose daring exploits and romantic profile--including his blond, sun-burnished good looks and flowing white robes--made him an object of intense fascination, still famous the world over as "Lawrence of Arabia."

An Oxford scholar and archaeologist, one of five illegitimate sons of a British aristocrat who ran away with his daughters' governess, Lawrence was sent to Cairo as a young intelligence officer in 1916.  Read more...


 
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More About Hero by Michael Korda
 
 
 
Overview

Michael Korda's Hero is the story of an epic life on a grand scale: a revealing, in-depth, and gripping biography of the extraordinary, mysterious, and dynamic Englishman whose daring exploits and romantic profile--including his blond, sun-burnished good looks and flowing white robes--made him an object of intense fascination, still famous the world over as "Lawrence of Arabia."

An Oxford scholar and archaeologist, one of five illegitimate sons of a British aristocrat who ran away with his daughters' governess, Lawrence was sent to Cairo as a young intelligence officer in 1916. He vanished into the desert in 1917 only to emerge later as one of the greatest--and certainly most colorful--figures of World War One. Though a foreigner, he played a leading and courageous part in uniting the Arab tribes to defeat the Turks, and eventually capture Damascus, transforming himself into a world-famous hero, hailed as "the Uncrowned King of Arabia."

In illuminating Lawrence's achievements, Korda digs further than anyone before him to expose the flesh-and-blood man and his contradictory nature. Here was a born leader who was utterly fearless and seemingly impervious to pain, thirst, fatigue, and danger, yet who remained shy, sensitive, mod-est, and retiring; a hero who turned down every honor and decoration offered to him, and was racked by moral guilt and doubt; a scholar and an aesthete who was also a bold and ruthless warrior; a writer of genius--the author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, one of the greatest books ever written about war--who was the virtual inventor of modern insurgency and guerrilla warfare; a man who at the same time sought and fled the limelight, and who found in friendships, with everyone from Winston Churchill to George Bernard and Charlotte Shaw, from Nancy Astor to Noel Coward, a substitute for sexual feelings that he rigorously--even brutally and systematically--repressed in himself.

As Korda shows in his brilliantly readable and formidably authoritative biography, Lawrence was not only a man of his times; he was a visionary whose accomplishments--farsighted diplomat and kingmaker, military strategist of genius, perhaps the first modern "media celebrity" (and one of the first victims of it), and an acclaimed writer--transcended his era.

Korda examines Lawrence's vision for the modern Middle East--plans that, had they been carried through, might have prevented the hatred and bloodshed that have become ubiquitous in the region. Ultimately, as this magisterial work demonstrates, Lawrence remains one of the most unique and fascinating figures of modern times, the arch-hero whose life is at once a triumph and a sacrifice and whose capacity to astonish still remains undimmed.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780061712616
  • ISBN-10: 0061712612
  • Publisher: Harpercollins
  • Publish Date: November 2010
  • Page Count: 762


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Historical - General
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Adventurers & Explorers

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2010-08-23
  • Reviewer: Staff

This magisterial biography of British soldier and adventurer T.E. Lawrence celebrates a life spent subverting authority in the most glamorous--and bizarre--ways. S&S editor-in-chief emeritus Korda (Ike) gives a rousing, lucid account of Lawrence's leadership of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during WWI and his diplomatic championing of Arab nationalism. But it's Lawrence's artistic bent--his Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a classic of war literature--and his magnetic but tortured soul that take center stage. Korda's Lawrence blends fierce ambition, monkish austerity, self-abasing masochism (sparked, perhaps, by whippings at the hands of his mother and Turkish soldiers), a disdain for higher-ranking brass, and a penchant for dominating it. After the war he tried to restrain these tendencies by enlisting as a lowly private in the Royal Air Force when he was a celebrity and confidant of government ministers. Korda perhaps exaggerates the novelty and significance of Lawrence's military exploits and makes an unconvincing stab at framing him in Joseph Campbell–inspired heroic archetypes. Still, Korda's vivid portrait of Lawrence and his warring impulses captures the brilliance and charisma of this fascinating figure. 16 pages of b&w photos, 26 b&w photos throughout. (Nov.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Epic life of a would-be savior

T.E. Lawrence had conflicting feelings about his own fame. In the 1930s, film producer Alexander Korda owned the movie rights to Lawrence’s popular book Revolt in the Desert, about the Arab fight for independence from Turkey during World War I. But “Lawrence of Arabia” persuaded Korda not to make the movie during his own lifetime; ultimately, Korda sold the rights to Sam Spiegel. Now best-selling author Michael Korda, Alexander’s nephew, has returned to the subject that his uncle put aside, and it’s still a great yarn, no matter how many times it’s been told. Hero is a portrait of Lawrence in all his complexity that is worth its 700-plus pages.

Korda regards Lawrence as a self-created hero. He rose like a rocket in the esteem of both British generals and Arab sheiks because he was just so incredibly talented; his guerrilla strategy against the Turks, his pioneering mechanized warfare and his post-war work on military rescue vessels have had huge influence ever since. Korda rejects the debunkers who consider Lawrence a fraud, showing him instead as a man with a genius for friendship who presented different aspects of his complicated psychology to different people. The personas “all coexisted within him and fought for dominance,” Korda writes.

Even as Lawrence became world-famous as the Englishman in Arab garb who had led the Bedouin to Damascus, he was overwhelmed with internal guilt at his failure to obtain what his Arab friends really wanted: a unified Greater Syria, free of French and British control. Korda is particularly adept at explaining the British government’s propensity for contradictory promises to the Arabs, Jews and French, and how it undercut Lawrence’s best efforts. In one of the great might-have-beens of history, Lawrence brokered an agreement between Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and Prince Feisal of the Hashemite dynasty that called for, among other things, a Palestine under joint Arab-Jewish control. As Korda notes, it was ignored by British and French leaders, who carved up the region between themselves.

 
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