A thrilling and revelatory narrative of one of the most epic and consequential periods in 20th-century history: the Arab Revolt and the secret game to control the Middle East.
The Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I was, in the words of T. E. Lawrence, "a sideshow of a sideshow". As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power. Curt Prüfer was an academic attached to the German embassy in Cairo whose clandestine role was to foment jihad against British rule. Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Palestine even as he built an elaborate anti-Ottoman spy ring. William Yale was a fallen scion of the American aristocracy who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order to gain valuable oil concessions. At the center of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist digging ruins in Syria; by 1917 he was riding into legend at the head of an Arab army, as he fought a rear guard action against his own government and its imperial ambitions.
Based on four years of intensive primary document research, Lawrence in Arabiadefinitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.
©2013 Scott Anderson (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Thomas Le Min
In this recent biography of T E Lawrence, Scott Anderson has placed Lawrence's life within the broader context of the events surrounding the First World War, along with the Arab Revolt, which played such a crucial role in the Middle East theater of that war. Along with Lawrence, Anderson details the actions of three other men; a Turkish governor of Syria; a Palestinian Jewish agronomist cum spy; an American oil man cum political & military representative; and a German intelligence officer. These three man serve as foils for Lawrence's actions, as well as a convenient vehicle for telling the broader story of WWI.
This is a wonderfully told history of Lawrence's complex life that presents about as independent and fair an assessment of his actions as is possible to achieve.
To top everything off on this powerful tale, the narrator does a terrific job of presenting the text. I highly recommend this audiobook to all those who are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the life of T E Lawrence, as well as those who are interested in WWI or the underpinnings of the current political situation in the Middle East.
Definitely a must-read for anyone interested in 20th century history, or Middle Eastern politics. Well written, eloquent, just the right amount of detail, and very human in portraying four protagonists through WWI.
The author valiantly tried to broaden the scope of the story by writing about players in the Middle East beyond T.E. Lawrence. But Lawrence's story and personality made the others pale in comparison.
Narrator did a good job with dense, sometimes unwieldy material.
I did get a better understanding of the powers that shaped the modern Middle East. A lot of Western arrogance was a play, and we are paying for it in any number of ways: The Iranian revolution, the dismantling of Iraq, radical Islam, Isis, etc. etc. etc.
A novel that lightly touches on some of the European politics that shaped the Middle East is Allen Furst's "Dark Star." I was astounded to learn T.E. Lawrence was so short. All of the Lawrence sections were riveting. I'll never look at the movie the same way again.
This book covers in details the years T.E. Lawrence spent in the middle east before and during World War 1. In addition to Lawrence's story the book covers a number of other British, French, German, American and Turkish agents and officers who played major roles in those events that shaped the history of the middle east for the next century.
The book also covers the contradicting treaties and secret agreements that the British and French had with each other and with different Arab entities and how different parts of the British government had competing priorities in addressing the Arab issue. The book also touches on the relationship of the Zionist movement with main powers during this time and competing styles of its different leaders.
Far removed from Peter O'Toole's depiction of "Lawrence of Arabia" this audio book not only gives you an extensive historical background of T.E. Lawrence's life and personality, but also about other major players at that time. It shows how the Middle East could have become what it is today, and where part of the deep distrust and hatred we all feel today originated.
The title is well chosen. War, Deceit and Imperial Folly as well as the total lack of cultural understanding as well as the contempt and racism towards Muslim and Arab people(s) made the modern Middle East.
Somehow I found the choice of an American narrator awkward. I was so expecting a Brit, but since the author was American I can understand the choice.
Expect this audio book to take some concentration. There are dozens of people, sometimes with difficult names and many playing fields and the author jumps from one to the other. So this is not some adventure novel you can listen to while distracted. :-)
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