Although T. E. Lawrence, commonly known as "Lawrence of Arabia", died in 1935, the story of his life has captured the imagination of succeeding generations. Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a monumental work in which he chronicles his role in leading the Arab Revolt against the Turks during the First World War. A reluctant leader, and wracked by guilt at the duplicity of the British, Lawrence nevertheless threw himself into his role, suffering the blistering desert conditions and masterminding military campaigns which culminated in the triumphant march of the Arabs into Damascus.
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Public Domain (P)2012 Naxos AudioBooks
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is written in what feels like a rather arcane, Gothic-style sermon-like English. This seems an odd choice because T. E. Lawrence is felt to be a modern figure in British history: his story is set during the mechanized 1914-1918 war, but in the middle-east, rather than the trenches of Europe. The book, because of its style is difficult at the start, but then through its moral complexity, its astonishing closeness to the motivation and events of the the life of T. E. Lawrence, the story becomes compelling. At its heart, and what makes the book profound, is the fact that is a moral journey within war, not just the memoir of a skilful soldier, or a story of blood and guts. In the end the intricate reading, and the polite British style of the reader, all make for an emotional and astonishing story. It is very good to have this audio-book and while its length and its complexity takes some effort to embrace, this challenge matches the scope of the story, the quality of the writing and the understanding it gives to the reader of T. E. Lawrence, and the books as a basis for an understanding of the contemporary politics and struggles of the present middle-east.
I had tried to read this a couple of times and given up. Lawrence's prose seemed of another era, a challenge to battle through. Whilst listening I went back to my hardback to check something, and was reminded of my difficulty reading it. Somehow the narrator picks it off the page and makes it compelling in a way I could never do when trying to read it. It was fluent, gripping and Lawrence was brought to life in a way I could not have imagined after those abortive attempts on the text myself. This really makes a compelling case for the audio format.
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