am 6. Dezember 1999
This book stands alone in the history of military memoirs. The book as a literary achievement and the subject of the book as a personal achievement are both unparalleled. What Lawrence did in WWI - unite the Arab tribes in a common fight against the Turks - was remarkable not only because no one thought it could be done but also because it was done by a man with no power or influence beyond what he could inspire by his own presense. Lawrence, a scholar before the war working as a mapmaker for the British army, was about as far removed from anyone's ideas of a military hero as could be. He nevertheless did the impossible and that story, no matter who tells it, is as fascinating as any that ever came out of warfare.
Equally fascinating is the book itself. A blend of truth and evasion, the book is told in a beautiful lazy style that suggests it had been thought out with the vast Arabian desert and ancient way of life in mind. It is helpful to have read another account of Lawrence's life, just to be sure of what is happening when he chooses to be vague, but the beauty of the writing and the insight of the keen intelligence from which it springs, is a great delight to experience.
Even more amazing is to realize that after this monumental book was completed, Lawrence left the complete manuscript - the only copy - on the London subway and had to recreate it from scratch using just his notes. This is a remarkable testiment to both his focus when he needed it, and his tendency to be frequently apart from the real world. A remarkable man. A remarkable book. Unique and worthy to be read and enjoyed.
am 8. Mai 2000
SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM would be that rarity, an extraordinary tale of action, adventure, politics, and introspection, told by a writer who was also a first-rate intellectual and man of letters (the two -are- different), if it weren't also part of a tradition in English letters: the man or woman such as Charles Doughty or Gertrude Bell or Hester Stanhope or Freya Stark, or the men who went off and played the Great Game in India and Afghanistan who willingly entered cultures alien to them and returned changed, with books for us.
Of all of these, Lawrence has fascinated me most. I first read SEVEN PILLARS when I was twelve, and I've read it every couple of years since then. As I grow wiser, it grows richer.
Lawrence was an unlikely defender of empire, an unlikelier man of action who forced himself into a kind of ascetic mental and physical preparation for the great deeds he felt himself called upon to play. Living as he did from 1888 to 1935, he was practically born in the last age where someone could express that claim without being ridiculed; and he found his war in the Arab Revolt, that long-lasting sideline to the War to End All Wars that produced more war -- and some great writers, among whom Lawrence was one.
This is a story of war. It's also a story of heroism and of anguish, written by a man who not only shaped events, but was shaped -- and warped -- by them. It can be read as military strategy, political history, travel story, or pathology.
But it's better to read it as itself: a unique and complex book written by a man who was loved and admired by the most famous people of his time, but who, in the end, wanted only obscurity and the anesthetizing speed of one of the motorcycles that killed him.
am 30. Juni 2000
T.E.Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", published in 1926 is a stark contrast to much of the literary works of that time (compare to Virginia Woolf's "Orlando" published in 1928). I thought his dispassionate, photographic, unflowery, and crisply accurate and detailed descriptions of his experiences, his quick sizing up of the abilities and characters of the people he had to deal with, his self criticism, agonizing over his betrayal of the Arabs who helped him for the benefit of England to be very refreshing. His vocabulary was excellent. Somehow I find it hard to imagine Virginia Woolf as being self critical in a public way like Lawarence was. And her choice of words was about at the same level as Miss Manners.
It is ironic that both books dealt with the Turks as an anvil. The Sick Man of Europe was disintegrating. Virginia's Orlando described the pleasant boredom of an ambassador's life in Instanbul and T.E. endured a bloody beating to avoid being raped by a homosexual officer in the Turkish army, between blowing up Turkish trains. Somehow that didn't make it to the movie.
In the coddled civilization in which we men (and women) live today, it is a good reminder that there are reasons why you don't pander to the perverse, stupid, and ignorant. T. E. Lawarence maintained the highest standards, standing apart, the best of leaders. A good example and a book well written that is worth reading over and over.
am 27. Januar 2000
Movies are often more dazzling than the events they are based upon, but this is a rare instance in which even Hollywood and David Lean could not do justice to their larger than life subject matter. Although Lawrence seemed to think he was writing a history of WWI in the middle east, his account of the war is episodic and confusing. But that doesn't matter at all. This is one of the most astounding adventure stories ever told, all the more amazing because it's true. Or, if you're not an adventure enthusiast, read it as a travelogue of the middle east. Lawrence will fascinate you with such seemingly prosaic things as the texture of the Arabian sand. In many ways, this is one of the greatest books ever written. Lawrence was, however, a product of his times. His attitude toward the Arab people vascillates between admiration and patronization, and some readers might find this aspect of the book distasteful.
am 1. Mai 2000
To begin with, I feel I don't have a right to judge here, because I cannot judge a persons life. But I can give my opinion, I hope that the difference is clear.
I have heard long ago that the famous movie was a real story, and much later, I discovered that Lawrence himself has written this tale down. And so I went and bought it. For three weeks - and this is a long time for me, who reads usually three books a week - couldn't put it down. I have always been more interested in people, than in history, but in this book is both. Although Lawrence very scarcly talks about himself, he is present on every page. I think the movie, good, but incorrect, had to fail on his person. The true Lawrence was a intelligent, arrogant, very sarcastic man; he was inconsistent a man. And, I think, always fighting not to break at it. I found there a truely great man, yet no hero in the way this word is used. He has done extraordinary thing in Arabia, and for the Arabs, not for the britsh, or himself. Maybe this is the meaning of "Hero" after all. To do something, that even today, people are spellbound by it, the story, the man, the philosophy. Maybe Lawrence was a hero, after all.
By the way, Lawrence proves to be one of the most skilled writers I have ever seen.
Finally, I can only say one thing: Read this book, no matter if you read in twenty years, or in french, or english, or if you carry it with you on your holiday on the moon. But read it.
am 26. Juli 1998
Seven Pillars is an amazing epic of one man's struggle to define himself in two different societies. It certainly is not the best book in style-the language is often too exaggerated and florid-yet, I enjoyed this book tremendously because he was able to show his sincerity about his ambitions. Like any good autobiography, Lawrence was able to show the reader his passion and quixotic individuality in the novel.
am 16. Juli 1999
It is hard to believe that one person experienced this much adventure. It is a true epic! This is a work of historical significance for contemporary times. Col. Lawrence's tremendous way of writing let's the reader see the beauty he saw in the Arabian desert. It makes the reader heartsick as one shares in the deep guilt that Lawrence felt during his participation in what he perceived as a lie. It's hard to put this book down. History lovers or war buffs will love this book!
am 18. Juli 1999
El libro pinta de cuerpo y alma a uno de los personajes más destacados del siglo. Describe con simpleza acciones militares llevadas a cabo con mínima logística en un teatro de operaciones extremadamente difícil. Sus enseñanzas fueron utilizadas en la IIGM (1939/1940) por las tropas británicas en el norte de Africa y por los "viets" de Ho Chi Minh en Indochina.
am 20. November 1999
One of the enduring themes of Lawrence's story for me is his stubborn and courageous quest for significance, which came closest to reaching the grail in the hostile world of the Arabian desert and its bedouin culture, which both attracted and repelled him. Readers for whom that theme resonates may want to compare a new account of Lawrence's bold desert predecessor, Charles Doughty, whom Lawrence acknowledged as a mentor and whose "Travels in Arabia Deserta" was a vital guide during the Arabian campaign. Lawrence's public recognition of Doughty - in "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and elsewhere - rescued the old explorer-writer from obscurity and the two became admiring friends. They shared many of the same conflicts, deriving from partial acceptance of English traditional values and the occasional attraction of the more elemental norms of their reluctant Arab hosts. Andrew Taylor's "God's Fugitive" (available from Amazon.UK) tells the fascinating story of Doughty's lonely and dangerous travels in the 1870s, which he started by smuggling himself along with a Haj caravan to Mecca, as well as of his obdurate refusal to compromise with militant Bedouin Muslims or conventional English editors.
am 3. März 1997
In reading Seven Pillars for a second time, I realized how T.E.Lawerance truly loved the desert and its people (the bedowin). I also can now appreciate the fact that Lawerance misplaced/lost/had stolen his first draft (which was near completion or completed) of this novel. I wonder if the second time around, Lawerance improved on his novel. With respect to Lawerance's sexual issues, I think he was more a-sexual (he did not liked to be touched) than heter or homo sexual. Indeed, this would be consistent with his almost fanitical love for the dessert and its solitude. The movie Lawerance of Arabia caught some of this "feeling" but his own work says its much better. This is a novel that is still worth reading, decades after his death. Truly, one of the great men of the 20th Century; an amazing man, who can not be easily "pegged" as so many have tried to do over the years. As with so many of the Greats of the 20th Century, Lawerance was a person with a personality that was complex and multi-layered (cf General Patton) and someone who felt (truly believed) that he was destined, almost "called" to do what he did-- notwithstanding, those who opposed him or who wanted him to fail