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A reluctant leader, wracked by guilt at the duplicity of the British, Lawrence of Arabia threw himself into this role, masterminding triumphant military campaigns against the Turks during the First World War.


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A reluctant leader, wracked by guilt at the duplicity of the British, Lawrence of Arabia threw himself into this role, masterminding triumphant military campaigns against the Turks during the First World War.

30 review for Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Classic non-fiction)

  1. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    "All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." The source of the title of T. E. Lawrence's masterpiece is the book of Proverbs: "Wisdom hath builded a house: she hath hewn out her seven pillars." (Proverbs, 9:1) This quotation is used as an evocative phrase for the title of a book that Law "All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." The source of the title of T. E. Lawrence's masterpiece is the book of Proverbs: "Wisdom hath builded a house: she hath hewn out her seven pillars." (Proverbs, 9:1) This quotation is used as an evocative phrase for the title of a book that Lawrence compared to Moby Dick and The Brothers Karamazov, and Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra. He considered these "titanic books" that were distinguished by "greatness of spirit". I would agree that his literary achievement at least approaches those levels and also demonstrates the bravado demonstrated by his comparison to them. His book was published in 1926 even though he wrote most of it about 1919 following his return from the desert. Reading this classic account of Lawrence's exploits was both exhilarating and informative. I was impressed by his depiction of Arab culture of the time and its seeming connection with past and present. The importance of tales told around the hearth as the heart of Arab culture seems to be similar to the culture encountered by Muhammad as he was growing up centuries earlier. Under the most arduous conditions, Lawrence found time for keen analysis: he applied that analysis to the differing forces that were interdependent within the Arab culture and did so with out betraying his loyalty to all or surrendering his loyalty to any. Further, Lawrence's keen ability to describe his surroundings and elevate the events, of which he was often the center, is shown in almost every chapter. He was able, through the generous length of his narrative, to share both bristling detail and a sense of the intricacy of the events he portrays. He often took time to share descriptions of the terrain and the weather which provide background for his continuing struggle. At the same time this detail provides as sense of both a documentary approach and also the drama of his escapades. The portraits of the Arab leaders from Abdulla and Auda to Feisel are fascinating in their detail and psychological insight. Lawrence, it seems, was born for this journey and fated to share it with us. In doing so he acted upon his dream 'with open eyes' and made it happen. In a book filled with deception on both sides he gives us a view into the world before the end of World War I changed everything. We see the various Arab factions and the deals made with the British. More importantly we are given insight into the men through Lawrence's eyes, his acute judgement, and his poetic narrative. He notes the keys to the Arab Revolt in the common language they shared and their heritage of the greatness that existed under the Caliphs going back to the six centuries following the death of Muhammad. We share in his pangs of conscience and his judgments of others and his own life and actions. He notes that "feeling and illusion were at war within me" reminding me of the birth of modernity with Faustian man. Also important are his comments on the British in the Middle East and the nature of the soldier in war. Reading this treatise was a moving experience as I gradually found support for my own subjunctive mood in this inspirational book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    Well, I've been working on this one for a while. It is by turns majestic, tiresome, enigmatic, and written in the grand manner of the 19th Century. It is interesting to find the big moments of the film, "Lawrence of Arabia", almost made light of in his memoir. He seems to be vain about all the wrong things. I imagine he wasn't a very likable chap but you have to admit he did remarkable things, and I marvel at some of the writing here. Well, I've been working on this one for a while. It is by turns majestic, tiresome, enigmatic, and written in the grand manner of the 19th Century. It is interesting to find the big moments of the film, "Lawrence of Arabia", almost made light of in his memoir. He seems to be vain about all the wrong things. I imagine he wasn't a very likable chap but you have to admit he did remarkable things, and I marvel at some of the writing here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Luís

    How to describe this monumental autobiographical epic of nearly 700 pages, which tells us about the peregrinations of Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known under the name of Lawrence of Arabia? In the middle of the First World War, this English officer imagines a tremendous Arab revolution raised against the Ottoman Empire, which would relieve the other French and Russian fronts. To realize his vision, he sets out in search of a charismatic Bedouin leader whom he will find in the person of Faisal, How to describe this monumental autobiographical epic of nearly 700 pages, which tells us about the peregrinations of Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known under the name of Lawrence of Arabia? In the middle of the First World War, this English officer imagines a tremendous Arab revolution raised against the Ottoman Empire, which would relieve the other French and Russian fronts. To realize his vision, he sets out in search of a charismatic Bedouin leader whom he will find in the person of Faisal, one of the sons of Sharif Hussein of Mecca. Then follow endless journeys and lightning attacks on camels, physical pain at the limit of the tolerable and daily arguments to try to keep united the tribes of the desert accustomed to quarrelling endlessly. Far from being a straightforward account of the Arabs' advance from the Hedjaz to Aqaba, then to Damascus, the seven pillars of wisdom are also, according to the chapters, a reflection on the strategy, the geography, the peoples of the Middle East. Orient or a half-whispered confession from its author. There is a precise analysis by war's course and the impacts that such victory or defeat in the French trenches on the material that the Suez Canal could deliver and a critique of the various operations carried out by the Turks the English. Comparing the great masters of strategy such as Clausewitz or Foch, Lawrence is an expert in the art of assaulting the Ottomans without facing them and of carefully sabotaging their lines of communication and railroad. We also like to follow Lawrence on his travels: "slow" on camelback, fast when he takes the ship to take his orders at Suez, or when he circulates in armoured rolls. In a few years, he travelled through Jordan (Maan, Aqaba, Amman, Dana, Wadi Rum), made frequent trips to Cairo, returned to the Hedjaz, made a detour through Jeddah before pushing his advance to Damascus. I was pretty surprised by his exact knowledge of the peoples and the rivalries between them in the Middle East. He describes the Druze, the Yezidis, the Armenians, the Syriacs and Levantines who rub shoulders with the Arabs in great detail. Endlessly criticizes French and Turkish people while he praises the moments shared between the English around what at the time seemed to him to be the pinnacle of luxury: earl grey, canned corned beef and dry biscuits. Beyond his adventures' stories and his exceptional geographical and geopolitical knowledge, Lawrence dwells on his certainties which sometimes collapse. At times, he flaunts his guilt in leading men in this way by promises he knows to be empty; his spiritual quest and the physical and mental violence to which he subjected also make this story a kind of self-confession, even atonement. Exciting and often fascinating, this work is, in my opinion, the key to better understanding part of the First World War, which took place in the Middle East. And whose subsequent treaties (Treaty of Sèvre, Treaty of Lausanne, etc.) defined the borders of this region, the repercussions of which we know today. While it is true that it has specific lengths, I did not find it less fascinating.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I was deeply disappointed by this book, but it's possible that was my fault. Lawrence somehow manages to be self-deprecating and completely arrogant at the same time, in a way that's startlingly oblivious. (At one point, he compares his book to Gibbon's Rise and Fall. Umm, no.) I had hoped that by the end of the book, I would understand both the history of the Arab Revolt during World War I and Lawrence the man better. I'm not sure I actually understand either one better than when I started. One o I was deeply disappointed by this book, but it's possible that was my fault. Lawrence somehow manages to be self-deprecating and completely arrogant at the same time, in a way that's startlingly oblivious. (At one point, he compares his book to Gibbon's Rise and Fall. Umm, no.) I had hoped that by the end of the book, I would understand both the history of the Arab Revolt during World War I and Lawrence the man better. I'm not sure I actually understand either one better than when I started. One of the most frustrating problems that quickly emerges is that Lawrence completely assumes that the reader is intimately familiar with all details of the chronology of the war, all of the history of the region, all of the people involved. We're dropped right into the middle and never given the slightest orientation. If events happen off page, we're lucky to ever hear about them. Allenby is tossed off as if we are as familiar with him as we are with Churchill--we get no real description of him, we never even get a first name, and I don't think there's even a title attached at first. (He's the British general in charge of the entire theater, by the way. The only reason I know this is because I saw the movie. God knows, I wouldn't have figured it out until halfway through the book, otherwise.) Allenby's capture of Jerusalem, a major turning point in the war? Mentioned in the second half of a sentance. It's like this for everything. One can never tell how important a given event might be. Major battles Lawrence is in may get two pages. Major battles Lawrence was not in are lucky to be a passing reference. The capture of major intelligence is "we found letters of interest" (whose contents are never disclosed), the thwarting of a would-be spy is a nondescript paraphrased conversation. But a description of a completely random and meaningless feast? Four pages, in great detail. A very lame joke Lawrence once made? We get every detail, from the set-up, doubling back into the backstory of why it's funny, and then a detailed description of everyone's reaction. We find out that they've run out of supplies two chapters ago when there's finally an off-hand reference to the fact they've had no food for days. There's no way to actually understand the course of the war or any of the decisions made. There's no sense of tension, because it's never possible to evaluate stakes. It's just a never-ending round of meeting Arabs who will never be mentioned again and blowing up train tracks without a description of how it affects anything. The events of the book are as featureless as the desert itself. As for Lawrence himself, we hear a great deal of meaningless detail but very little of importance. I know all about his costume, but not why he chose that particular costume. I know about how one time, he lay down and when he woke up, there were lice that crawled out of his hair. But I have no idea of why he was in Arabia in the first place. I know about his very mixed feelings about the English using the Arabs, but I don't know how he got himself into the situation. There is one shockingly intimate chapter in which he is captured in Deraa, tortured, possibly raped (or "just" sexually assaulted, it's not entirely clear). At the end, he declares that the citadel of his integrity has been breached, but it's never really mentioned again. The combination of English reserve and the overall oblique style makes it difficult to see how such a life-shattering event affected him. We know all about external details. He gives tiny hints of interal torment here and there. But we never get enough information to really understand how his mind works, despite spending almost 700 pages in it. What we do know is that he likes flowery language. The writing is lyrical unto purple, with bits of elaborate racist theories thrown in for spice. It's beautiful, all right, but nearly opaque. Makes great cover, added to all that English reserve, so that you have to read paragraphs three times to actually figure out what the heck just happened. Not helping are some typographical choices that I don't know who to blame for. There's a certain inability to stick to spellings. Feisal is spelled Faysul at random sometimes, for example; Jidda is Jeddah, and so on. When there's a new person introduced every other page (and usually dropped two pages later), it makes it difficult to keep track. Also, while the chapters are not named but just numbered, the top of every page has its own name. These names, however, are vague enough as to be no help at all in understanding what's going on or in finding a certain section. Someone spent a great deal of time labelling every single page with things like "Hunger and Precaution", followed by "Messengers", or "Safely Away"/"Over the Plain"/"Hot Winds"/"Until Sunset". ("Until Sunset" is a paragraph and a half. Seriously. This was worth taking the time to give its own name?) The story is a fascinating one. It's a shame I didn't get to read it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charles van Buren

    Poor edition of a 5 star book Review of Kindle edition Publication date: April 21, 2011 Language: English ASIN: B004XMQ6J0 This review is for SEVEN PILLARS of WISDOM [Illustrated with Working TOC], released April 21, 2011, 592 pages. These remarks apply to that edition only. The description contains its own warning as to what to expect. "Some language has been Americanized for better comprehension." It has been recognized that this book is literature, not completely accurate history. Some (including Poor edition of a 5 star book Review of Kindle edition Publication date: April 21, 2011 Language: English ASIN: B004XMQ6J0 This review is for SEVEN PILLARS of WISDOM [Illustrated with Working TOC], released April 21, 2011, 592 pages. These remarks apply to that edition only. The description contains its own warning as to what to expect. "Some language has been Americanized for better comprehension." It has been recognized that this book is literature, not completely accurate history. Some (including myself) call it great literature. Yet somone thought it a good idea to rewrite it. In addition to being "Americanized", this volume is missing "Note on the spelling of proper names," (a bit of humor by Lawrence); the controversial dedication poem "To S.A."; & the "Author's Preface". Another reviewer observes that other things are missing as well. Better editions of this five star book are available from Amazon. Note that as usual Amazon and Goodreads have combined reviews of different editions.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Thomas Edward Lawrence's meticulously written account of his fascinating life during World War I is one of the literary treasures of the Twentieth Century. Lawrence had graduated with honors from Oxford University in 1910. He had a fascination with medieval history, and had traveled as a student to study Crusader castles in France and Syria the summer before his graduation. He worked professionally as an archaeologist in the Middle East until 1914, with extensive travel through the Ottoman Empir Thomas Edward Lawrence's meticulously written account of his fascinating life during World War I is one of the literary treasures of the Twentieth Century. Lawrence had graduated with honors from Oxford University in 1910. He had a fascination with medieval history, and had traveled as a student to study Crusader castles in France and Syria the summer before his graduation. He worked professionally as an archaeologist in the Middle East until 1914, with extensive travel through the Ottoman Empire's possessions, including the current Jordan, Syria and Iraq. During early 1914, he was part of a geographical survey of the Negev Desert, which served as a cover for the British government in its attempts to gather intelligence on the terrain of this Ottoman-controlled area which would become important to military operations in the event of a war. When that war came, Lawrence was commissioned as an intelligence officer assigned to British army headquarters in Cairo. He would later function as the liaison officer working with the Arab irregulars and guerrillas fighting an internal insurgency against the Ottomans. The British plan was to funnel large amounts of money and munitions to the Arabs, letting them distract and weaken the key German ally, Turkey. Lawrence became a key advisor of Emir Faisal and a trusted subordinate of the British commander in the area, General Edmund Allenby. His years of fighting on behalf of the Arabs, wearing the desert robes while traveling everywhere on camelback, helped him identify intensely with the cause of Arab independence. He was involved with the guerilla operations against the Hejaz railway and, in 1917, was instrumental in the successful surprise attack against the strategic town of Aqaba. The culmination of his military exploits in the desert was his participation in the conquering of Damascus late in 1918, and the consequent installation of a provisional Arab government under Faisal. After the shooting stopped, Lawrence would become disillusioned over the knowledge that the cause of Arab independence had been undermined by the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement negotiated during the war to divide the Middle East under French-British influence. Many of Lawrence's exploits are chronicled in "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." However, the text available to most readers today is from revised editions of the original. Lawrence wrote a manuscript from his notes and his memory in 1919, reported to contain 250,000 words. The title is from the Book of Proverbs, and is also the name bestowed by Lawrence on a rock formation at Wadi Run (now located in Jordan) during the war. This first manuscript was the one that was lost in a railway car and never recovered. A second, longer, text was reconstructed from Lawrence's memory in 1920. During 1921, a third edition was published; this is referred to as the Oxford edition, and was printed in just eight copies. Later, in the mid-1920's, a subscribers' edition with a printing of 200 copies was released. Lawrence lost money on all of these editions. Finally, an abridged version was authorized by Lawrence to be printed for more general circulation; this edition was titled "Revolt in the Desert." Lawrence assigned the profits from this book, which became a best seller, and from his other writings to trusts which generously funded the RAF Benevolent Fund. His surviving brother A.W. Lawrence later (in the 1930's) sold the U.S. copyright to "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" to Doubleday Doran, of which this reviewed edition derives. As you can see, Lawrence's need for frugality and privacy trumped trying to get rich from his war adventures, even though he did feel strongly that the events occurring in Arabia at that time needed to be recorded. There was little chance for Lawrence to live in post-war obscurity, however, since media exposure from Lowell Thomas made him famous. Thomas was a war correspondent who traveled with Lawrence and Faisal. He took many photographs and even had a cameraman to film some of the action surrounding the battles with the Turks. After the war, Thomas became rich as the narrator of a slide show of the Arab revolt which toured the world; it was especially well received in London. He was shrewd enough to exploit Lawrence's dashing persona, going so far as to have additional photographs taken of Lawrence in his robes in London after the war in order to add to the visual appeal of the picture show, which was titled: "With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia." All of this unwanted attention, disillusionment, war-and-literary fatigue caused Lawrence to literally drop out of public view. By 1922, when he was still in the process of directing the printing of various editions of his memoir, he joined the Royal Air Force as an enlisted man. This former officer (I think he rose to the rank of Lt. Col. in the war) served humbly, if bizzarly, under the names of John Ross and T.F. Shaw; he also served for a time in the Royal Tank Corps, until the age of 35. He died at the age of 46 in a motorcycle accident. I had wanted to read "Seven Pillars ..." for some time, having read a biography of Lawrence when I was in high school. That book, by an author I don't recall, gave an interesting account of Lawrence's life, but referred to the literary beauty and authenticity inherent in Lawrence's own words. It would be interesting to be able to read through one of the exquisitely bound and illustrated early, rare editions of "Seven Pillars ..." , regardless of how many hundreds of thousands of words are contained therein, but a later, widely available abridged edition will have to suffice and, in the end, is very satisfying.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John Farebrother

    I've read this book twice now, and seen the film countless times. When a colleague once asked me which was my favourite war film, I didn't need to think about it for long. But as is usually the case, the book blows the film away. For detail of the inside story of the war in the East, description of life with the Arabs in the desert, and sheer adventure, it's unparalleled. It is also directly relevant to our day, for as TE Lawrence wrote: "We could see that a new factor was needed in the East […] N I've read this book twice now, and seen the film countless times. When a colleague once asked me which was my favourite war film, I didn't need to think about it for long. But as is usually the case, the book blows the film away. For detail of the inside story of the war in the East, description of life with the Arabs in the desert, and sheer adventure, it's unparalleled. It is also directly relevant to our day, for as TE Lawrence wrote: "We could see that a new factor was needed in the East […] No encouragement was given us by history to think that these qualities could be supplied ready-made from Europe. The efforts of the European Powers to keep a footing in the Asiatic Levant had been uniformly disastrous […] Our successor and solution must be local". A shame Tony Blair with his privileged education didn't read that passage. And as for Syria: “the Syrians had their de facto government, which endured for two years, without foreign advice, in an occupied country wasted by war, and against the will of important elements among the Allies” If people like TE Lawrence who know what they are talking about, were listened to, the Middle East wouldn't be in the mess it is now. But it's always the same in politics: the decision-makers are by definition those who are closest to the fount of all power, and furthest away from the real world.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Louisa

    Since battles and warfare are not really my thing, I am amazed how much I enjoyed reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In this beautifully written memoir, Lawrence gave us an honest account of his role in the Arab revolt, his hopes on making Damascus the capital of the Arabs, but also his doubts about the whole endeavor. I love how he blended in with the Arabs, learning their language and their customs, riding the camels in the Arab way, becoming one of them. That they loved him and accepted him as Since battles and warfare are not really my thing, I am amazed how much I enjoyed reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In this beautifully written memoir, Lawrence gave us an honest account of his role in the Arab revolt, his hopes on making Damascus the capital of the Arabs, but also his doubts about the whole endeavor. I love how he blended in with the Arabs, learning their language and their customs, riding the camels in the Arab way, becoming one of them. That they loved him and accepted him as one of their own becomes clear in the final chapters leading up to the taking of Damascus, when the Arabs saw him negotiating with the English to get supplies and ammunition to prepare for the capture of the city: Never could I forget the radiant face of Nuri Said, after a joint conference, encountering a group of Arab officers with the cheerful words, 'Never mind, you fellows; he talks to the English just as he does to us!' The history is fascinating, and so are his descriptions of desert life, the sand storms and mirages, the annoying insects, the camels, and the oases. I found it beautifully written, well worth reading.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steve Birchmore

    This is the book that the film Lawrence of Arabia is loosely based upon. I say loosely, because after finishing the book I rented the film and watched it all the way through for the first time since I was a kid. It was only then that I realised that although the film is a magnificent piece of film-making, it is very inaccurate in places and often just simply wrong. T.E. Lawrence was much more extraordinary and his achievements and much more astonishing even than the amazing portrayal of him in This is the book that the film Lawrence of Arabia is loosely based upon. I say loosely, because after finishing the book I rented the film and watched it all the way through for the first time since I was a kid. It was only then that I realised that although the film is a magnificent piece of film-making, it is very inaccurate in places and often just simply wrong. T.E. Lawrence was much more extraordinary and his achievements and much more astonishing even than the amazing portrayal of him in the film. But, I suppose the difficulty of making a film of 'Lawrence of Arabia' is, how do you compress so much into so little time and how do you explain certain things simply and quickly. Hence the film seems to me now like a series of snapshots of events that did happen and some that didn't, but perhaps including the made up stuff to make the story on screen flows better. T.E. Lawrence was like Indiana Jones and James Bond and some SAS type hero all rolled into one. This archaeologist’s assistant was turned down by the Army for being too short. He was no soldier, but he read Clausewitz and all the other great military theorists, created his own war and applied all he learned to great effect. Nobody told him to capture the strategic port of Aqaba - that was his idea. He didn’t even inform his superiors. He enrolled the Arab tribesman in the project, rode across the desert and took it. And that was almost just the start! There are two books I was reminded of when going through Seven Pillars of Wisdom and they are 'My War Gone By, I Miss It So' by Anthony Lloyd and 'The Lord of The Rings'. The first because I think this book is surprisingly personal or intimate for a book written shortly after WWI. I was at times actually quite shocked and disturbed by Lawrence’s thoughts and feelings. Not so much that he had them, but that a national hero, who turned down a knighthood and a Victoria Cross not to mention two Croix De Guerres, writing shortly after World War One, would share such things with the general public. It made me think of Lord Of The Rings not only because what Lawrence did in mostly just two short years is an absolutely epic tale, but because so much of it revolves around ancestor worshiping/respecting tribesmen with bizarre sounding names from bizarre sounding places. So a typical paragraph may be Lawrences meeting with Maahmoud, renowned desert warrior of the Abu-Orense, son of Ali, scourge of the Waddi-Odd, blood enemies of the Abu Tayi, and so on. Fortunately It’s all online and you can search the text to see where those particular names came up before and avoid your head spinning with confusion. I’m no judge of prose but it seems almost poetic at times. According to Michael Korda, author of ‘Hero: The Life And Legend Of Lawrence Of Arabia’, Lawrence was a skilled writer and examination of his letters demonstrate he would very much alter his style depending on who he was writing to. Korda also describes Lawrence’s description in ‘Seven Pillars Of Wisdom’ of the attack on the train at Mudowwara as the very best of war writing. So much happens in just ten minutes and Lawrence’s style is perfect: the mine is detonated, the Turkish troops on the roofs machine gunned, some Turkish troops take shelter behind a bank and are hit with mortars, the train is looted, some Austrian officers and NCOs are taken prisoner, one of them pulls a pistol and they are massacred by the Arabs, Lawrence has time to reassure and old woman passenger and find her servant/slave, a badly wounded Arab, who Lawrence should have protected is left behind by mistake and Lawrence is distressed as he should have been killed as they cannot take him with them and the Turks will horribly kill the badly wounded, and so on. It makes me think of the helicopter attack scene in the film Apocalypse Now in that a lot happens in short space of time, much of it is horrible, some of it is incongruous and some of it weird, and you are on the edge of your seat trying to imagine what that must have been like. I found the battle scenes compelling. A.P. Wavell (later Field Marshall Wavell) wrote of Lawrence’s description of the battle of Talifah, that it was“one of the best descriptions of a battle ever penned”. Aside from the battle scenes, many of the descriptions of the Arabs and their way of life are marvellous. It’s just a fantastic book, because its well written and fantastic story nearly every part of which could be independently verified - which is just astonishing. How many men have had such an adventure? Alexander the Great maybe? That’s the sort of League T.E. Lawrence ended up in.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I’m going to first off state something very confusing. I really loved this book. I love T.E. Lawrence, I think he’s an enigmatic, mysterious and overall heroic man... however, I didn't actually finish the book. If you aren’t quite sure of who this man is, simply think back to that amazing, award winning movie, “Lawrence of Arabia.” Lawrence’s main initiative in this book is to act as an intermediate between the rebel forces of Arabia and the English, who were organizing against the Ottoman Turk’s I’m going to first off state something very confusing. I really loved this book. I love T.E. Lawrence, I think he’s an enigmatic, mysterious and overall heroic man... however, I didn't actually finish the book. If you aren’t quite sure of who this man is, simply think back to that amazing, award winning movie, “Lawrence of Arabia.” Lawrence’s main initiative in this book is to act as an intermediate between the rebel forces of Arabia and the English, who were organizing against the Ottoman Turk’s. More then anything, the book is about the unification of Saudi Arabia and the many conflicts which helped to achieve that end. Although this is generally thought of as an Autobiography, especially since it was written by T.E. Lawrence himself, I hesitate in naming it as such. There is a lot of controversy that surrounds Lawrence, and, while the word of the man himself should be the most accurate, there are general rumblings about whether many events have been embellished. So, this is, as Charles Hill has stated, “”a novel traveling under the cover of autobiography.” (Spoiler) The books extends from Lawrence’s first rumblings of revolt against the Turk’s. It’s very clear by his writing that Lawrence has absolutely no respect for the Turk’s, whom he views as culturally absent and reliant upon numbers, rather then strategy and wit. He frequently travels across the country, eventually uniting enough tribes to push the Turk’s from nearly every major post by sabotaging the huge Hejaz Railway that extends from the north to the south. The main drive of the book is to capture Damascus for the Arabs, which can only be achieved by the outstanding military ambition of Emir Faisal. Faisal is one of the major individuals of the war, whom acted as a united front against the Turk’s and a close fried to Lawrence himself. Unlike in the movie, there is almost no mention of Ali, who seems to be taken from Faisal’s character and modified to suit the audience’s favor. There is definitely a sense of hero worship from Lawrence to Faisal, which seems to felt mutually. The level of respect that the English have for the authority figures of the tribes is interesting and increases the general romance of the book. And here’s where I explain why exactly why I gave this a 3 out of 5. Even though I loved this book and all of the individuals within it, I found it so incredibly difficult to read. As an Australian girl, who is culturally naive and has only visited America and Canada, it was almost incomprehensible to understand exactly what was happening. There is just so many new words, technical terms and long names to remember that I only understood what I was reading by about 150 pages. It’s difficult to admit this but I haven’t actually finished it because it is probably one of the most difficult books I have ever read. And I’ve read a lot of books. Lawrence does have a very poetic style of writing and I think that without that, I wouldn’t have been able to make it past 50 pages. For example: "For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven. By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind. At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars. We were a self-centred army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of man’s creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all our strength, a hope so transcendent that our earlier ambitions faded in its glare." As you can see by the quote above, Lawrence is immensely talented in his writing and there are scenes that literally make the heart ache with its beauty. However, those moments are often separated by lengthy explanations of who is who, where they are and what strategies they have planned. It is also interesting to note that Lawrence himself is a very unusual and complex person, who is described as being sexually ambiguous, effeminate and strategizing. He isn’t a typical hero, in any sense. So, for the romance of the book, of Lawrence and of the landscape, I give this book a 3. However, I can not award this book points for readability, consistency of ideas and the quality of the every chapter. I do know that one day I will come back to this book, it’s hard not to when you fall in love with Lawrence, but I don’t think, as a young girl, that I can fully appreciate this book at this stage in my life. However, if you understand what it is to follow complex storyline’s and are interested in the man itself, please do read this book. After all, this is a personal review, based on my own experiences with it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' by Thomas Edward Lawrence is a memoir of observations about World War I by Lawrence who worked in Syria and Palestine - Arabia - from 1914 to 1918. Lawrence is considered a hero by most, and in my opinion, deservedly so. Some critics think he inflated his part in some events; others believe subsequent publicity after the publication of his memoir (several versions were published) inflated his participation. None of this backseat whinging changes the fact being in a war i 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' by Thomas Edward Lawrence is a memoir of observations about World War I by Lawrence who worked in Syria and Palestine - Arabia - from 1914 to 1918. Lawrence is considered a hero by most, and in my opinion, deservedly so. Some critics think he inflated his part in some events; others believe subsequent publicity after the publication of his memoir (several versions were published) inflated his participation. None of this backseat whinging changes the fact being in a war is horrible, and Lawrence was definitely fighting in the Arab war against the Turkish Ottomans who were allies of the Germans. Military men go without food and adequate shelter. They see and do appalling killings of men, women and children. They watch close friends as well as themselves endure terrible injuries without medical care for days. They live with days - months - of anxiety, not knowing when they will be in battle, or if they will survive the horrors of war, and not knowing how things will end in any campaign. They never know when they will be resupplied, or rescued if under attack or when they will be given new instructions to move somewhere unknown for reasons unknown by an unfamiliar officer with more rank. Lawrence experienced all of this. But he also had a lot of talent - in languages, in stamina, in willpower. From reading his book, he was self-directed, able to think for himself, and willing to take enormous risks with the lives of people for whom he was responsible. If he disagreed with a strategy, he organized opposition by going to disparate groups (hundreds of leaders of various Arab tribes, English/French/Indian commanders) who normally couldn't agree on anything and convinced them to work together for a different plan. He also often faked it until he made it - something he admits to frequently in his book. He made command decisions often without real authority other than what he pretended as an irregular British officer, and he admits to bonehead failures and surprising (sometimes to him) successes. For us, gentle reader, the most important aspect of Lawrence's book is he was a damn good writer! However, the book, which is almost like a diary but with chapters and few dates, does not go into the Big Picture of the war in Arabia, so below I have copied from Wikipedia a timeline which clarifies the on-the-street coverage Lawrence does in his book: Lawrence's most important contributions to the Arab Revolt were in the area of strategy and liaison with British armed forces, but he also participated personally in several military engagements: 3 January 1917: Attack on an Ottoman outpost in the Hejaz 26 March 1917: Attack on the railway at Aba el Naam 11 June 1917: Attack on a bridge at Ras Baalbek 2 July 1917: Defeat of the Ottoman forces at Aba el Lissan, an outpost of Aqaba 18 September 1917: Attack on the railway near Mudawara 27 September 1917: Attack on the railway, destroyed an engine 7 November 1917: Following a failed attack on the Yarmuk bridges, blew up a train on the railway between Dera'a and Amman, suffering several wounds in the explosion and ensuing combat 23 January 1918: The battle of Tafileh, a region southeast of the Dead Sea, with Arab regulars under the command of Jafar Pasha al-Askari; the battle was a defensive engagement that turned into an offensive rout and was described in the official history of the war as a "brilliant feat of arms". Lawrence was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership at Tafileh and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. March 1918: Attack on the railway near Aqaba 19 April 1918: Attack using British armoured cars on Tell Shahm 16 September 1918: Destruction of railway bridge between Amman and Dera'a 26 September 1918: Attack on retreating Ottomans and Germans near the village of Tafas; the Ottoman forces massacred the villagers and then Arab forces in return massacred their prisoners with Lawrence's encouragement. Lawrence made a 300-mile personal journey northward in June 1917, on the way to Aqaba, visiting Ras Baalbek, the outskirts of Damascus, and Azraq, Jordan. He met Arab nationalists, counselling them to avoid revolt until the arrival of Faisal's forces, and he attacked a bridge to create the impression of guerrilla activity. His findings were regarded by the British as extremely valuable and there was serious consideration of awarding him a Victoria Cross; in the end, he was invested as a Companion of the Order of the Bath and promoted to Major. Lawrence travelled regularly between British headquarters and Faisal, co-ordinating military action. But by early 1918, Faisal's chief British liaison was Colonel Pierce Charles Joyce, and Lawrence's time was chiefly devoted to raiding and intelligence-gathering. By the summer of 1918, the Turks were offering a substantial reward for Lawrence's capture, initially £5,000 and eventually £20,000 (approx $2.1 million in 2017 dollars or £1.5 million). One officer wrote in his notes: "Though a price of £15,000 has been put on his head by the Turks, no Arab has, as yet, attempted to betray him. The Sharif of Mecca has given him the status of one of his sons, and he is just the finely tempered steel that supports the whole structure of our influence in Arabia. He is a very inspiring gentleman adventurer." The fact Lawrence had a price out on his head is enough proof for me Lawrence did certainly play an important part in the war! Lawrence had first explored Arabia, from Wikipedia: In 1910, Lawrence was offered the opportunity to become a practising archaeologist at Carchemish, in the expedition that D. G. Hogarth was setting up on behalf of the British Museum. Hogarth arranged a "Senior Demyship" (a form of scholarship) for Lawrence at Magdalen College, Oxford to fund his work at £100 a year. He sailed for Beirut in December 1910 and went to Jbail (Byblos), where he studied Arabic. He then went to work on the excavations at Carchemish, near Jerablus in northern Syria, where he worked under Hogarth, R. Campbell Thompson of the British Museum, and Leonard Woolley until 1914. Then, when World War I was declared: In January 1914, Woolley and Lawrence were co-opted by the British military as an archaeological smokescreen for a British military survey of the Negev Desert. They were funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund to search for an area referred to in the Bible as the Wilderness of Zin, and they made an archaeological survey of the Negev Desert along the way. The Negev was strategically important, as an Ottoman army attacking Egypt would have to cross it. Woolley and Lawrence subsequently published a report of the expedition's archaeological findings,[40] but a more important result was updated mapping of the area, with special attention to features of military relevance such as water sources. Lawrence also visited Aqaba and Shobek, not far from Petra. Following the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Lawrence did not immediately enlist in the British Army. He held back until October on the advice of S. F. Newcombe, when he was commissioned on the General List. Before the end of the year, he was summoned by renowned archaeologist and historian Lt. Cmdr. David Hogarth, his mentor at Carchemish, to the new Arab Bureau intelligence unit in Cairo, and he arrived in Cairo on 15 December 1914. The Bureau's chief was General Gilbert Clayton who reported to Egyptian High Commissioner Henry McMahon. In 1915 there was a new idea being talked about by the various leadership of the main tribes of non-Turkish Arabs. Arab leaders wondered if they could unite the hundreds of various small related desert tribes into individual countries, like Europe. The idea became an operative hope because of the war. Lawrence actively explored and promoted Arab freedom in the Arabian Kings' and princes' courts he visited within the Arabic-speaking Ottoman territories. Frankly, the Arab tribes were not the kind of people who enjoyed joining in anything, so these leaders were struggling not only with the Ottoman Turks and European powers, but with their own people. Lawrence was often acting unofficially on his own as an ambassador between Arab tribes, Arab princes, and his British overlords, as well as officially. He wrote of having bad headaches from this job of mediation between competitive tribes that he often assumed on his own initiative. Omg, MY own head hurt from reading about the petty and dangerous squabbles Lawrence dealt with constantly between leaders. And then there were the knife fights between individuals from different tribes in the field! It reminded me of a schoolyard monitor trying to keep neighborhood teenage gang members from shooting each other over petty insults and old grudges. One of Lawrence's biggest disappointments after the war was the betrayal of the Arabs by the European war powers. They reneged on their promises to the Arab Kings to support their bid for creating Arab nations free from colonialism. He had made friends among the Arabs, and he felt like he had been put into the unwilling position of a Judas goat. Besides describing the war missions of blowing up train tracks, bridges and of attacking Turkish camps, Lawrence describes Arab customs and ways of life in his memoir. He spoke fluent Arabic, so he was able to suss out what the tribes thought of each other and the British outsiders from an insider's viewpoint. He did not hesitate to live as Arabs did, eat as they did, dress as they did. Considering the harsh deserts (and rural poverty) they lived in, it was important he learned their ways to survive the huge swing of temperatures from summer to winter, the lack of water and available foodstuffs, the lack of roads, airports, navigable rivers, etc. He really had to learn how to ride and care for camels. He became an expert! But he really really pushed himself and the people assigned to follow him or be his guides into terrible environments that even the Arabs found daunting. There were awful bugs, and going without bathing for weeks and no food and water for days! Because of a strong willfulness of character, he often went on these dangerous journeys alone looking for Turk encampments and good places to blow up, making maps. From many poetic descriptions of the land in his memoir I think he loved being in those isolated but beautiful rocky and sandy places with only a riding and a supply camel, no matter that he could meet Turkish soldiers or unfriendly Arabs. Because of the cultural individualism of Arab mentality, an Arab or tribe could switch allegiances because of perceived insults, whim or bribes. Lawrence navigated through all of the difficulties despite being a British foreigner. Lawrence's parents were not married, but he was the second of five sons. He was born in Wales, but the family moved from there to Scotland and later England. As a bastard, he probably could never have married into a 'good' family. However, many of his friends believed him asexual. From reading his memoir, I think he may have been homosexual, but he definitely was not very active sexually, if so. I agree with many who think he was a masochist. There are reports he hired men to whip him after the war. I think these stories are true. He underwent unthinkable deprivations and sufferings in wartime service to his country, and he chose to serve in one of the most inhospitable places for humans to survive - Arabia. There is a famous incident of sexual torture and possible rape when he was captured by Turks while on a reconnaissance mission. He notes in this book "how in Deraa that night the citadel of my integrity had been irrevocably lost." In the chapters after this, Lawrence is noticeably less interested and very tired of the job he had been doing, mentioning more and more often he wanted to go home. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._E._L... "I loved you, so I drew these tides of Men into my hands And wrote my will across the Sky in stars To earn you freedom, the seven Pillared worthy house, That your eyes might be Shining for me When I came Death seemed my servant on the Road, 'til we were near And saw you waiting: When you smiled and in sorrowful Envy he outran me And took you apart: Into his quietness Love, the way-weary, groped to your body, Our brief wage Ours for the moment Before Earth's soft hand explored your shape And the blind Worms grew fat upon Your substance Men prayed me that I set our work, The inviolate house, As a memory of you But for fit monument I shattered it, Unfinished: and now The little things creep out to patch Themselves hovels In the marred shadow Of your gift." -T. E. Lawrence There are maps, appendixes of soldiers and their companies, tables of positions and movements, and indexes of places and people.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    That was hard to read (one star for that!). Lawrence describes every hill, tree and shrub, gives the name of every man he has met and depicts his clothes, the meal they shared and the jokes that were told. On top of that military theory, philosophy, ethics, and theology. Heavy stuff. What you also get: a better understanding for today's near and middle east conflicts, insight into the Arab soul, and a glimpse into the soul of a very complicated man. Five stars for this. That was hard to read (one star for that!). Lawrence describes every hill, tree and shrub, gives the name of every man he has met and depicts his clothes, the meal they shared and the jokes that were told. On top of that military theory, philosophy, ethics, and theology. Heavy stuff. What you also get: a better understanding for today's near and middle east conflicts, insight into the Arab soul, and a glimpse into the soul of a very complicated man. Five stars for this.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Annmarie

    I selected this book to read as part of the research I was doing on my novel. I had seen the film "Lawrence of Arabia" in the past and now wanted to mine the book for details I needed to know about life among the Bedouin in 1920. I had planned to only read the parts I needed for my novel, but ended up devouring the whole thing. Then I read it again, parsing out what had now become an intense interest in TE's psychology. I then retreated to a biography and selected John Mack's "A Prince of our Di I selected this book to read as part of the research I was doing on my novel. I had seen the film "Lawrence of Arabia" in the past and now wanted to mine the book for details I needed to know about life among the Bedouin in 1920. I had planned to only read the parts I needed for my novel, but ended up devouring the whole thing. Then I read it again, parsing out what had now become an intense interest in TE's psychology. I then retreated to a biography and selected John Mack's "A Prince of our Disorder", not only because it won a Pulitzer, but because it was a psychological biography rather than the more materialistic ones that focused on TE's war efforts. (I do not care how Lawrence learned to blow up a train). As Lawrence's personality was dissected in that fabulous biography, I could not help but draw on a curious aspect of human-ness. There is a correlation between being deeply psychologically disturbed and fantastic achievements in some of history's greatest artists. Van Gogh, is the first who comes to mind, but Beethoven and Mozart and Wagner all had personality problems (I am being polite here), Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin: not particularly well-balanced. There are any number of examples, too many to discuss here. The opposite is true as well, as other men who are infamous rather than famous, and their achievements might be better categorized as harmful to humanity rather than having enriched it (these men tend to enter politics rather than the arts). But the point I am making is that in order to step out of the ordinary, the mold has to be broken, and cracking that mold often corresponds to a cracking the psyche. Reading Seven Pillars again after reading Mack's biography underlined the most poignant parts of the book, and watching the film again after being immersed in the two books brought out the fierce intent of the filmmakers to illustrate in sound and color what Lawrence meant to other people and to history, but not what that medium could convey to us what was churning in Lawrence's soul. They tried, they tried, and Peter O'Toole does a fantastic job looking like a tormented soul, his eyes at times full of humor and then pathos and then fear. But the screenplay cannot put the words in our ears that we need to hear in order to understand Lawrence. Only his own words can do that, and they are heartbreaking.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael O'Brien

    It was an interesting account by Lawrence of his experiences organizing and advising the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War 1. Some of the details on the movements geographically of Lawrence's forces are hard to follow, and could have been better explained if maps showing the various place names had been throughout the text. Some of Lawrence's prose is a little hard to follow. However, if you are a history buff as I am, then you will enjoy this book. Several people come off, I think, It was an interesting account by Lawrence of his experiences organizing and advising the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War 1. Some of the details on the movements geographically of Lawrence's forces are hard to follow, and could have been better explained if maps showing the various place names had been throughout the text. Some of Lawrence's prose is a little hard to follow. However, if you are a history buff as I am, then you will enjoy this book. Several people come off, I think, positively in Lawrence's account: Prince Faisal, the overall commander of the Arab forces; Field Marshal Allenby also comes off as an innovative, imaginative military leader who, unlike his predecessor, incorporated the Arab forces into his overall campaign strategy, one that presaged the German Wehrmacht's blitzkrieg tactics of blending air, artillery, and mobile armored forces to break the enemy. In addition, I was moved by an account of Lawrence when one of his irregular Arab guerilla leaders, Tallal, finds his home village massacred by the Turks during their retreat from Allenby's forces. Tallal, disobeying orders, splits off from his comrades, draws his sword, and single-handedly charges into a force of several thousand Turkish soldiers -- maddened by his grief and anger -- dying in the effort. Whereupon, the entire Arab force, formerly remaining covert, rises and wipes out the Turks en masses --- no quarter given, none taken. I believe a version of this scene is shown in the movie "Lawrence of Arabia."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    From a review I wrote of a different book.... At the end of November 1918, a dark, handsome young man who claimed, with some justification, to speak for the Arabs boarded a British warship in Beirut bound for Marseille and the Paris Peace Conference. Feisal, descendant of the Prophet and member of the ancient Hashemite clan, was clever, determined and very ambitious. He was also dazzling. he was everyone’s image of what a noble desert Arab should be. “He suggested the calmness and peace of the des From a review I wrote of a different book.... At the end of November 1918, a dark, handsome young man who claimed, with some justification, to speak for the Arabs boarded a British warship in Beirut bound for Marseille and the Paris Peace Conference. Feisal, descendant of the Prophet and member of the ancient Hashemite clan, was clever, determined and very ambitious. He was also dazzling. he was everyone’s image of what a noble desert Arab should be. “He suggested the calmness and peace of the desert, the meditation of one who lives in the wide spaces of the earth, the solemnity of thought of one who often communes alone with nature.” Feisal had declared himself king of the Arabs. Riding at Feisal’s side was his fair-haired, blue-eyed British liaison officer, later to become even more famous as Lawrence of Arabia. A distinguished scholar and a man of action, a soldier and a writer, a passionate lover of both the Arabs and the British empire, T. E. Lawrence was, in Lloyd George’s words, “a most elusive and unassessable personality.” He remains a puzzle, surrounded by legend, some based in reality, some created by himself. It is true that he did brilliantly at Oxford, that he could have been a great archaeologist and that he was extraordinarily brave. It is not true that he created the Arab revolt by himself. His great account, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, is part history, part myth, as he himself admitted. He claimed that he passed easily as an Arab, but Arabs found his spoken Arabic full of mistakes. He shuddered when the American journalist Lowell Thomas made him famous, but he came several times in secret to the Albert Hall to hear his lectures. “He had,” said Thomas, “a genius for backing into the limelight.” https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brian Bethke

    This is an amazing account of Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during WWI, and one of my favorite books of all time. His vivid and tireless description of the Arabs, the war and the desert combined with an intimate view into his moral struggles provides an unparalled kathartic read. His exhausting description can seem to get monotonous at times but whether intentional or not this style "works" for writing about the desert. It is not a "quick" read, but dreamy and wondering, and laden with fascin This is an amazing account of Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during WWI, and one of my favorite books of all time. His vivid and tireless description of the Arabs, the war and the desert combined with an intimate view into his moral struggles provides an unparalled kathartic read. His exhausting description can seem to get monotonous at times but whether intentional or not this style "works" for writing about the desert. It is not a "quick" read, but dreamy and wondering, and laden with fascinating portraits of those who shaped the modern face of the Middle East. Simply put, the man was as brilliant as he was tragic. Interestingly enough Prince Feisal whom accompanies Lawrence in leading the Arab campaign against the Turks becomes the King of what would later become Iraq... This was how it all started, and a glimpse into what it was supposed to be about.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Gave up at 3%. Too much vague waffle, not enough nitty gritty, or more precisely, none whatsoever.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.” (Proverbs 9:1) This eyewitness report of the Arab revolt against Turkish rule during World War One is exhaustive in scope and detail. Lawrence fills six hundred plus pages with details of who, what, where, why and even the weather. Much of it will only interest academics and students of war and rebellion. But hidden in all that dry, sandy strata are nuggets of wisdom about politics, war and irregular warfare in the middle east—some o “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.” (Proverbs 9:1) This eyewitness report of the Arab revolt against Turkish rule during World War One is exhaustive in scope and detail. Lawrence fills six hundred plus pages with details of who, what, where, why and even the weather. Much of it will only interest academics and students of war and rebellion. But hidden in all that dry, sandy strata are nuggets of wisdom about politics, war and irregular warfare in the middle east—some of it relevant today. “They were weak in natural resources … otherwise we should have had to pause evoking in the strategic center of the Middle East new national movements of such abounding vigor.” This is Lawrence’s second draft. The first and many of his notes were lost. I can’t imagine what was left out. At every turn, Lawrence lists the principle players (and often names their camels), the name of the topography, the weather conditions, the water quality at this waterhole (vital in the desert), and comments on the quality of shade and local vermin. Did I mention it was exhaustive? “In mass they were not formidable. The smaller unit the better its performance.” Lawrence’s style is archaic. Some sentences required several readings to glean the meaning. He extends “thanks to Mr. and Mrs. [George] Bernard Shaw for countless suggestions of great value and diversity: and all the present semicolons.” There are lots of semicolons. I recorded over seventy quotes for extra attention. A few frame this review, unfortunately out of context. “The Wahabis [sic], followers of a fanatical Moslem heresy, had imposed the strict rules [of the desert] on easy and civilized [town folks]. Everything forcibly pious or forcibly puritanical.” No one escapes Lawrence’s magnifying glass, including himself. Some characters fare better than others. He is honest, but not necessarily politically correct. He indulges in the racial, class and national stereotypes common to an educated Englishman of that day, but he is frank in his admiration for those who suffered most: the common soldiers. “We should use the smallest force in the quickest time at the farthest place.” His analysis of the development of irregular warfare echoes in the tactics used worldwide today. The text suffers from many uncorrected OCR transcription errors. Added to Lawrence’s penchant for details, the reader often finds himself adrift in a trackless desert. “I know the British do not want [Arabia], yet what can I say, when they took the Sudan, not wanting it? Perhaps one day will seem to them as precious.” Feisal bin Hussein

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alanpalmer

    We all know about the film even if we have not seen it, or at least seen the end of it. But this is the story written bythe man himself. It tells the story of one of the forgotton parts of the First world War. Less famous than the Somme, Gallipoli and Jutland this is the story of an assault on the underbelly of the Ottoman Empire, how a British Army Officer united a rag tag group of nomadic Arabs and formed a fighting unit. It is fairly low on action scenes but does describe effective use of exp We all know about the film even if we have not seen it, or at least seen the end of it. But this is the story written bythe man himself. It tells the story of one of the forgotton parts of the First world War. Less famous than the Somme, Gallipoli and Jutland this is the story of an assault on the underbelly of the Ottoman Empire, how a British Army Officer united a rag tag group of nomadic Arabs and formed a fighting unit. It is fairly low on action scenes but does describe effective use of explosives and sabbotage. It is much more focussed on the mindset of T.E Lawrence and his understanding of Arab culture and customs. He was a rebel, a maverik but he could organise lead and get results. This book is even more relevant today than when I read it over a decade ago and describes desert warfare in the early days of airpower and before the largescale use of armour when men fought men as they did in Flanders, and when leaders rode or marched with their troops and did not sit behind computers. although the historical accuracy has been questioned it remains primarily an adventure story and even if it is only based on facts rather than being a true account it remains a fantastic story with much to teach about the arab culture.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Emmett

    I first read Thomas Edward Lawrence's meticulous account of his fascinating life during World War I when I was 11 years of age. It had a profound effect on me. I think it is a literary treasures of the Twentieth Century. The title is from the Book of Proverbs. It was a name bestowed he used to name a rock formation at Wadi Run (now located in Jordan) during the war. Lawrence graduated with honors from Oxford University in 1910. He had a fascination with medieval history. He travelled,studied abnd I first read Thomas Edward Lawrence's meticulous account of his fascinating life during World War I when I was 11 years of age. It had a profound effect on me. I think it is a literary treasures of the Twentieth Century. The title is from the Book of Proverbs. It was a name bestowed he used to name a rock formation at Wadi Run (now located in Jordan) during the war. Lawrence graduated with honors from Oxford University in 1910. He had a fascination with medieval history. He travelled,studied abnd wrote about the Crusader castles in France and Syria during the summer before he graduated.He worked as an archaeologist in the Middle East until 1914, travelled externsively through the Ottoman Empire, including places such as the modern Jordan, Syria and Iraq. In early 1914, he participated in a geographical survey of the Negev Desert, which was really an attempt by the British government to gather intelligence on the terrain for possible military operations in the event of a war. When the war came, Lawrence became a commissioned intelligence officer assigned to British army headquarters in Cairo. He worked as a liaison officer working with the Arab irregulars and guerrillas fighting an internal insurgency against the Ottomans. The British plan was to provide large amounts of money and munitions to the Arabs, letting them distract and weaken the key German ally, Turkey. Lawrence became a key advisor of Emir Faisal and a trusted subordinate of the British commander in the area, General Edmund Allenby. He spent years fighting on behalf of the Arabs, wearing the desert robes and traveling everywhere on camelback. He spoke arabic and he strongly identified with the Arab cause of independence. He was involved in planning and taking part in guerilla operations against the Hejaz railway. In 1917, he planned and helped organise the successful surprise attack on the Turkish held coastal town of enormous strategic importance, Aqaba. His military exploits in the desert culminated in his participation in the conquering of Damascus late in 1918, and the consequent installation of a provisional Arab government under Faisal. Lawrence quickly became disillusioned after learning that the cause of Arab independence had been undermined by the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement negotiated during the war to divide the Middle East under French-British influence. Seven Pillars of Wisdom tells the stories of Lawrence's exploits. Lawrence wrote a manuscript from his notes and his memory in 1919, reported to contain 250,000 words, so what most people read is a significantly abridged version. The first manuscript was supposedly lost in a railway car and never found. A second manuscript was reconstructed from Lawrence's memory in 1920. In 1921, a third edition was published; this is referred called the Oxford edition, though only eight copies were printed. In the mid-1920's, an abridged edition with a printing of 200 copies was released. Lawrence lost money on all of these editions. Finally, a version was authorized by Lawrence to be printed for more general circulation; this edition was titled Revolt in the Desert. Lawrence was a very private man and despite this amazing story to tell he didn't get rich from his war adventures He never stopped believing in Arab independence and he felt strongly that the events in Arabia had to be recorded - to show there were promises made to the Arabs , unkept in the WWI post war carve up. He could not live post war in obscurity thanks to the media exposure from Lowell Thomas.Thomas was a war correspondent who traveled with Lawrence and Faisal, taking photographs and even filming some of the military action of the battles with the Turks. After the war, it was Thomas who became rich narrating a slide show of the Arab revolt. He toured the world and was adored by Londoners. He was shrewd enough to exploit Lawrence's dashing persona, going so far as to have additional photographs taken of Lawrence in his robes in London after the war in order to add to the visual appeal of the picture show, which was titled: "With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia." Lawrence found this attention as unbearable as the disillusionment he felt with his own givernment and their treatment of the Arabs. After the war he was physically and psychologically exhausted, trying to write; so he literally dropped out of the public sphere. In 1922, he was still organising for the printing of various editions of his memoir, yet he joined the Royal Air Force as an enlisted man. This former Lt. Colonel in WWI enlisted somewhat bizzarly, under the names of John Ross and T.F. Shaw. Also, he also served in the Royal Tank Corps, until he reached the age of 35years. He died at 46 years old in a strange motorcycle accident. I think he was a homosexual who had to live a series of lies in a very hypocritical post war British Empire, which had served with honour. He felt betrayed. He undoubtedly enjoyed the relationships he was able to have in Arabia with young men and it must have been dreadful to return to all the constraints and limitations of his historical time in England. Yes I saw the movie, fell in love with Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole - but it was the book and not the film that made him real for me. He was an obsessive, research focussed intelligent adventurer and idealist and he was my hero for many years.

  21. 5 out of 5

    karl

    This classic autobiography of over 700 pages was written 90 years ago by Lawrence covering his 1916-18 WW-I campaign to help organize and use disparate Arab tribes as a supplementary weapon to the British against the Turks, who were aligned with the Germans. I enjoyed and hated the book. The enjoyment was, to put it simply, “I was exposed to and learned so much about so many things.” In fact, ½ way through the book I downloaded and watched the 1962 movie of Lawrence of Arabia (which for a movie This classic autobiography of over 700 pages was written 90 years ago by Lawrence covering his 1916-18 WW-I campaign to help organize and use disparate Arab tribes as a supplementary weapon to the British against the Turks, who were aligned with the Germans. I enjoyed and hated the book. The enjoyment was, to put it simply, “I was exposed to and learned so much about so many things.” In fact, ½ way through the book I downloaded and watched the 1962 movie of Lawrence of Arabia (which for a movie is more less consistent with the book). Lawrence, an Oxford man, had spent nearly 10 years in Arabia by 1918 when he was 30, the Turks were in rout, the Arabs (arguably under Lawrence’s indirect and direct leadership) captured Damascus, and the bookends. The hate was how tedious it can be to handle the geographical places, tribal names, and key tribal leaders. The few maps in his book were hard to read. Sometimes he went on and on about the terrain. Sometimes sentences don’t make sense. After often just doing a Google search for a map or city or village I couldn’t find it – Lawrence’s translations often aren’t current usage. I found it best to read the book on my Kindle but have my laptop open with several bookmarks available to supplement my reading. Among them were: • ataea.net/Hejazmap1.html, which is about the Hejaz Railway that plays such a major part of the campaign • yagitani.jpn.cx/tel/sp0904_en.htm, which is like a dictionary showing variants of all the names and places in the book. • www.telstudies.org.uk, which is a web site about T.E. Lawrence You will finish the book with a much broader understanding of WW-I than just trench warfare in France or the massacre at Gallipoli. You will have a better sense of geography - from learning is it only about 160 miles between Jerusalem and Damascus, let alone where is Jordan relative to Syria and Iraq. You will learn that towards the end of the war airplanes were very important for bombing and surveillance. You read how dirty and grubby, lice infested, and hungry Lawrence and the Arabs often were. Without doctors there is reference to having others piss on another’s gun shot wounds. There is no booze. There is homosexual behavior. Oh, and it is not until 1918 that there Lawrence has access to armored cars along with the camels. The tribes often hated each other. Lawrence got them to work together. He was a guerrilla warfare advocate who preferred to isolate and cut off the enemy rather than trample them, who blew up over 70 bridges, who did not like to fight personally, who slept little, and who weighed 7 stones (I looked it up, 98 pounds). I could go on and on, but I leave that to you!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

    I couldn't possibly "review" this book with anything that has not already been said in the past eighty or ninety years so I'll just mention what makes it awesome for me. Although I usually find detailed descriptions of settings and how characters appear on the outside boring and tend to skip over them a lot-think James Michener-T. E. Lawrence's descriptions of the places he went and characters that he met on his treks through the Middle East leave me wanting more. He states that he was a reluctan I couldn't possibly "review" this book with anything that has not already been said in the past eighty or ninety years so I'll just mention what makes it awesome for me. Although I usually find detailed descriptions of settings and how characters appear on the outside boring and tend to skip over them a lot-think James Michener-T. E. Lawrence's descriptions of the places he went and characters that he met on his treks through the Middle East leave me wanting more. He states that he was a reluctant participant in the events of the Arab Revolt, but his enthusiasm in these descriptions tells another story. It was pretty to look at the neat, brown men in the sunlit sandy valley, with the turquoise pool of salt water in the midst to set off the crimson banners which two standard bearers carried in the sun. --T. E. Lawrence Lawrence experienced much inner turmoil regarding the difference between the British/French and the Arabs of the true mission of the revolt, and the true character of the participants. Vickery...was satisfied, but I could not share his satisfaction. To me an unnecessary action, or shot, or casualty, was not only waste but sin. I was unable to take the professional view that all successful actions were gains. Our rebels were not materials, like soldiers, but friends of ours, trusting our leadership. We were not in command nationally, but by invitation; and our men were volunteers, individuals, local men, relatives, so that a death was a personal sorrow to many in the army. Even from the purely military point of view the assault seemed to me a blunder. --T. E. Lawrence T. E. Lawrence was himself a multifaceted and complicated man and nothing presents that fact more than his own writings.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    Travel, camel patrols, Bedouins, combat, political intrigue, trains & explosives, and exploding trains; Lawrence’s book is full of adventure. It is a large work and takes quite some time to read, even reading the pruned later editions. But, it is neither the adventures, nor the length of the book that makes it so well known and loved, but the fact that Lawrence is a natural-born storyteller. His choice of words can be beautiful and flowing, and yet at times becomes so enmeshed in the details of Travel, camel patrols, Bedouins, combat, political intrigue, trains & explosives, and exploding trains; Lawrence’s book is full of adventure. It is a large work and takes quite some time to read, even reading the pruned later editions. But, it is neither the adventures, nor the length of the book that makes it so well known and loved, but the fact that Lawrence is a natural-born storyteller. His choice of words can be beautiful and flowing, and yet at times becomes so enmeshed in the details of everyday life on his journeys that it is possible to get bored with the minutia. I won’t add to the words you will have to read if you pick up this book, but I will share a small sample in this widely popular quote from Seven Pillars of Wisdom: "All men dream - but not equally. Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity... But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." -T. E. Lawrence

  24. 5 out of 5

    Campbell

    I read this longer ago than I care to remember and still it burns within me. It's an incredible book written by an enigmatically fascinating man. The opening paragraph (which I leave you to google at your leisure) is one of my favourites in all of literature, of any genre. I urge everyone, anyone, to read it. I read this longer ago than I care to remember and still it burns within me. It's an incredible book written by an enigmatically fascinating man. The opening paragraph (which I leave you to google at your leisure) is one of my favourites in all of literature, of any genre. I urge everyone, anyone, to read it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    What an interesting man in an interesting place and time. Violent, compassionate, humble, arrogant, deceitful, cunning, naive. I can see why this man has intrigued so many people for so long.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hansson

    What a massive disappointment. Lawrence expounds on situations and incidents that do not inform the reader at all of the greater picture, there's no attempt to tie together things into a strategic or even a coherent whole. Apart from Faisal and Abdullah who he worships and despises respectively, there's no real characters in the book besides himself. Even key people like Allenby are glossed over and referred to only in relation to Lawrence's needs. There's no sense of momentum or consequences, i What a massive disappointment. Lawrence expounds on situations and incidents that do not inform the reader at all of the greater picture, there's no attempt to tie together things into a strategic or even a coherent whole. Apart from Faisal and Abdullah who he worships and despises respectively, there's no real characters in the book besides himself. Even key people like Allenby are glossed over and referred to only in relation to Lawrence's needs. There's no sense of momentum or consequences, it's more like the capture of Gaza and Jerusalem are happening in Flanders and have no impact on the rebellion. Pretty much the only time Lawrence actually succeeds in storytelling is the finale, with the fall of Damascus and his attempt to back the Arabs in forming their own government. I see from other reviewers that Lawrence's prose was a major plus, and yes, he has a knack for putting a poetic sentence together. It probably contributed greatly to his charming of the Arabs, but in such a huge book the effect wears off. You are more likely to be ground down by his endless detailing of small scale actions and frankly mind-bogglingly pretentious philosophizing rather than be dazzled. The amount of contempt he has for the Turks is at first illuminating, then funny-in-an-ironic-way because of how repetitive it is, then dispiriting because Lawrence comes off as a sore winner. I consider the film based around T.E. Lawrence to be one of my favorites, and believed his account would be rich and illuminating. I thought there would be evocative language of the landscapes, comprehensive accounts of the men involved, and a clear process about how his own "little" war was intersecting with the larger one. Instead I've come away from it bewildered and sure of only one thing, that he had an ego that overshadowed the collapse of an empire.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Akiva

    This is an incredible book. It starts out slow and it is quite long. After about the first half I was convinced I should have just gone to see Lawrence of Arabia again instead. But from there it picks up. Not that the storytelling gets more gripping per se. Indeed, the whole thing is kind of choppy, in a "We did this and then we went here" sort of way. They spend a lot of time blowing up trains. But the strangeness of Lawrence's situation and what it is doing to him comes though clearer and cleare This is an incredible book. It starts out slow and it is quite long. After about the first half I was convinced I should have just gone to see Lawrence of Arabia again instead. But from there it picks up. Not that the storytelling gets more gripping per se. Indeed, the whole thing is kind of choppy, in a "We did this and then we went here" sort of way. They spend a lot of time blowing up trains. But the strangeness of Lawrence's situation and what it is doing to him comes though clearer and clearer. He's becoming super bitter about having to be loyal to both the Arabs who are his friends and companions, and the British who are making all sorts of promises they have no particular intent to keep. So he's helping to lead and foment an Arab nationalist rebellion while simultaneously trying to advance the goals of the Empire. And it's not even a cause that has anything to do with him except that World War I is going on in the background and this is his part. By the time they're marching on Damascus he is completely done. Fortunately the war almost is too. It's nuts. And that's without even getting into the grueling weather, the sleepless nights, the getting shot at, the endless killing, and the time he gets violently raped by an enemy leader while captured in disguise! Throughout he is brutally honest about his mistakes, strategically and emotionally, things that got his men killed or lead to them committing massacres. And even after that, at the very end you have no idea what he's even doing in Arabia in the first place and then he says, my strongest motivation for my actions has been totally unmentioned in this book. Unbelievable.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Frederic

    I have little to no interest in military tactics and strategy and only a limited generalist's view of The Great War...no interest,at all,in the topography,[email protected],Beduin(SIC)Customs of the early 20th Century...and only a superficial curiosity about "Lawrence of Arabia" of whom I was aware only as the subject of the film which I had found to be pretty but empty and totally incoherent politically and psychologically...obviously a minority opinion...but this book made all these subjects totally I have little to no interest in military tactics and strategy and only a limited generalist's view of The Great War...no interest,at all,in the topography,Flor[email protected],Beduin(SIC)Customs of the early 20th Century...and only a superficial curiosity about "Lawrence of Arabia" of whom I was aware only as the subject of the film which I had found to be pretty but empty and totally incoherent politically and psychologically...obviously a minority opinion...but this book made all these subjects totally compelling for me with it's sophisticated(though never too complex for the layman)military and political insights,it's multi-faceted portrait of a Land and Society(alien to the Mores of The West),and the vulnerable,brilliant,wounded,incredibly brave self-portrait in which Lawrence reveals himself to readers(though trying to maintain a Stiff-Upper-Lip Distance)as a real Hero...just having read Korda's biography, coloured,I'm sure,my bias toward Lawrence but I find ample testimony in this book to confirm the idea that he really was quite remarkable,as both a figure on the periphery of the World Stage and as a Man...

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

    I bought this book when I was in High School, having just seen the movie version of Lawrence of Arabia. As a first person account, Lawrence freely chronicles his successes and failures. He even makes fun of himself at times, such as his harrowing experience of having a camel shot out from under him as he was charging a routed Turkish force prior to the attack on Akaba. It is only after the battle, having survived the fall from his beast that he realizes he has shot the poor creature in the back I bought this book when I was in High School, having just seen the movie version of Lawrence of Arabia. As a first person account, Lawrence freely chronicles his successes and failures. He even makes fun of himself at times, such as his harrowing experience of having a camel shot out from under him as he was charging a routed Turkish force prior to the attack on Akaba. It is only after the battle, having survived the fall from his beast that he realizes he has shot the poor creature in the back of the head himself during the attack. He tells of his realization of how a smaller force can keep a much larger force in check became a successful campaign allowing the eventual capitulation of Turkish forces in the region. This book is a must read for anybody interested in the history of this region of the world. From Iraq to Yemen, Cairo to Damascus, the shape of politics and power in the region was decreed by European authority. Lawrence was one of the Europeans who participated and tried to influence the shape of the region following the Armistice. The reader won't consider WW-I in quite the same way after reading this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    A.j. Bealing

    I read Seven Pillars of Wisdom because I was going to Jordan. It was a tortuous read and I had to bribe myself to finish it. This is unfair on Lawrence so I should explain that I am a middle aged woman with zero interest in the strategies and tactics of warfare. Lawrence's elephantine ego infuriated me, but without that he would never have achieved what he did. I guess it's a question of horses for courses, and some courses demand the elephantine ego. Read it if you are interested in the minutia I read Seven Pillars of Wisdom because I was going to Jordan. It was a tortuous read and I had to bribe myself to finish it. This is unfair on Lawrence so I should explain that I am a middle aged woman with zero interest in the strategies and tactics of warfare. Lawrence's elephantine ego infuriated me, but without that he would never have achieved what he did. I guess it's a question of horses for courses, and some courses demand the elephantine ego. Read it if you are interested in the minutiae of war. Challenge yourself to read it if you are visiting Jordan. Then take a look at http://theislandatelier.com/jordan-la... which is a short and light overview.

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