The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
By Michael Korda
Harper, Hardcover, 9780061712616, 784pp.
Publication Date: November 16, 2010
List Price: $36.00*
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Michael Korda's Hero is the story of an epic life on a grand scale: a revealing, in-depth, and gripping biography of the extraordinary, mysterious, and dynamic Englishman whose daring exploits and romantic profileincluding his blond, sun-burnished good looks and flowing white robesmade him an object of intense fascination, still famous the world over as "Lawrence of Arabia."
An Oxford scholar and archaeologist, one of five illegitimate sons of a British aristocrat who ran away with his daughters' governess, Lawrence was sent to Cairo as a young intelligence officer in 1916. He vanished into the desert in 1917 only to emerge later as one of the greatestand certainly most colorfulfigures of World War One. Though a foreigner, he played a leading and courageous part in uniting the Arab tribes to defeat the Turks, and eventually capture Damascus, transforming himself into a world-famous hero, hailed as "the Uncrowned King of Arabia."
In illuminating Lawrence's achievements, Korda digs further than anyone before him to expose the flesh-and-blood man and his contradictory nature. Here was a born leader who was utterly fearless and seemingly impervious to pain, thirst, fatigue, and danger, yet who remained shy, sensitive, mod-est, and retiring; a hero who turned down every honor and decoration offered to him, and was racked by moral guilt and doubt; a scholar and an aesthete who was also a bold and ruthless warrior; a writer of geniusthe author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, one of the greatest books ever written about warwho was the virtual inventor of modern insurgency and guerrilla warfare; a man who at the same time sought and fled the limelight, and who found in friendships, with everyone from Winston Churchill to George Bernard and Charlotte Shaw, from Nancy Astor to NoËl Coward, a substitute for sexual feelings that he rigorouslyeven brutally and systematicallyrepressed in himself.
As Korda shows in his brilliantly readable and formidably authoritative biography, Lawrence was not only a man of his times; he was a visionary whose accomplishmentsfarsighted diplomat and kingmaker, military strategist of genius, perhaps the first modern "media celebrity" (and one of the first victims of it), and an acclaimed writertranscended his era.
Korda examines Lawrence's vision for the modern Middle Eastplans that, had they been carried through, might have prevented the hatred and bloodshed that have become ubiquitous in the region. Ultimately, as this magisterial work demonstrates, Lawrence remains one of the most unique and fascinating figures of modern times, the arch-hero whose life is at once a triumph and a sacrifice and whose capacity to astonish still remains undimmed.
“A splendid biography about a most unusual and extraordinary individual.”
-Hugh Thomas, author of The Spanish Civil War
“Few come closer to appraising the man in all his protean grandeur, and essential mystery, than Michael Korda. . . . One of the most compelling books I have read in a long time.”
-Sir Alistair Horne, CBE, author of A Savage War of Peace
“Lawrence of Arabia, one of the great heroes of any age, has found the right biographer in Michael Korda--a keen judge of the human condition and a master story teller who can separate myth from reality without diminishing the grandeur of his subject.”
-Evan Thomas, author of The War Lovers
“This magisterial biography of British soldier and adventurer T.E. Lawrence celebrates a life spent subverting authority in the most glamorous--and bizarre--ways. Korda’s vivid portrait of Lawrence and his warring impulses captures the brilliance and charisma of this fascinating figure.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The story of T.E. Lawrence’s life is one well worth reading, particularly for its insights about the history of the Middle East.”
“Hero is a portrait of Lawrence in all his complexity that is worth its 700-plus pages.”
“Michael Korda’s new biography of Lawrence of Arabia is big-hearted and provocative—a page-turner that also helps us understand how the Middle East became the confused mess it is today. Hero is a magnificent achievement.”
-Nathaniel Philbrick, author of The Last Stand
“There couldn’t be a better time to brush up on the life and times of T.E. Lawrence. . . . Korda persuasively argues that had Lawrence’s vision for a Mideast peace prevailed after the war . . . that deeply troubled part of the world might be a far more peaceful, prosperous region than it is today.”
“In case you thought there was nothing let to say about T.E. Lawrence . . . along comes Michael Korda with Hero: brilliant, illuminating, un-putdownable, a masterpiece of biography about quite possibly the most fascinating and complex personality of the 20th century.”
-Christopher Buckley, author Losing Mum and Pup
“Hero is a full-scale, major event, [and] a great biography. . . . The triumph of the book is Michael Korda’s brilliant, always balanced portrait of the infinitely fascinating Lawrence of Arabia, the relevance of which, now in our time, is of greater importance than ever.”
“Michael Korda’s magisterial and beautifully illustrated new book... is a stunningly good biography of one of the most famous, yet least understood heroes of the 20th century.”
“Michael Korda captures the indomitable, tormented spirit of this extraordinary man. . . . Well crafted and excellent in its depiction of T.E. Lawrence as a multi-dimensional figure. . . . A fine biography.”
“Korda’s biography of Lawrence’s life and legend conjure up a pathos and a very human side to the mystique of Lawrence of Arabia.”
-New York Journal of Books
“[Korda] has redrawn the map, and reinvented T.E. Lawrence, coming closest to giving this elusive holograph in a white dishdasha a pulse.”
“In Hero, Korda presents Lawrence’s life in minute, fascinating detail. . . . Korda’s extensive research and straightforward writing make this a valuable addition to the Lawrence library, a one-stop resource for all who are interested in this hero.”
“The strength of Hero lies in its ability to analyze Lawrence’s accomplishments and to add something meaningful to the larger body of Lawrence lore. . . . Mr. Korda writes with authority...Sagacious and valuable. . . . Most important, Mr. Korda makes himself a credible authority on some of the most egregious misconceptions that surround Lawrence’s story.”
-New York Times
“[A] beguiling biography. . . . Korda is at his best describing, after the heroics in the desert, the touching antiheroics of Lawrence’s later life.”
-New York Times Book Review
“An unexpectedly fresh, engagingly written biography that adds substantially to our understanding of this strange, contradictory, curiously admirable and compelling subject’s life and contribution.”
-Los Angeles Times
“Much has been written about him, but no one has succeeded in illuminating the quintessential Lawrence of Arabia so profoundly and so well as Michael Korda. Hero is a work of brilliance, discernment and meticulous scholarship that surely will be hailed as the gold standard.”
-Henry A. Kissinger
“Comprehensive. . . . An accessible, textured story of one man who intimatelyknew the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
“T.E. Lawrence is next to impossible to fix on the page. Yet Michael Korda has done so, delivering up a crowded, improbable life in a page-turning biography, every bit as rich as its protean subject. A splendid read.”
-Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra: A Life