"Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East"
On this edition of ST, we chat with the author and journalist Scott Anderson, who has reported from Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Bosnia, El Salvador, and many other strife-torn countries, and whose writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Harper's, and Outside. Anderson tells us about his newest book, "Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East," which a New York Times book critic has hailed as "fine, sophisticated, richly detailed...[and] filled with invaluably complex and fine-tuned information.... Eminently readable.... For those already fascinated by Lawrence's exploits and familiar with his written accounts of them, Mr. Anderson's thoughtful, big-picture version only enriches the story it tells.... Illuminating.... Beyond having a keen ear for memorable wording, Mr. Anderson has a gift for piecing together the conflicting interests of warring parties.... [This] is a fascinating book, the best work of military history in recent memory and an illuminating analysis of issues that still loom large today. It's a big book in every sense, with a huge amount of terrain to cover.... It's high praise for both the visually grand film and this grandly ambitious book to say that they do have a lot in common." And as was noted of "Lawrence in Arabia," furthermore, in a starred review in Booklist: "To historians, the real T. E. Lawrence is as fascinating as the cinematic version in 'Lawrence of Arabia' is to movie fans. The many reasons interlock and tighten author Anderson's narrative, yielding a work that can absorb scholarly and popular interest like. Start with Lawrence's WWI memoir, 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' (1922). A rare-book collectible, it inspired many of the scenes in David Lean's film and is also subject to cross-referencing interpretations of Lawrence's veracity. For lyrical though Lawrence could be about Arab leaders and desert landscapes, he could also be enigmatically opaque about the truth of his role in events. Accordingly, Anderson embeds Lawrence and 'Seven Pillars' in the wider context of the Arab revolt against Turkey, and that context is the British, French, German, and American diplomacy and espionage intended to influence the postwar disposition of the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence was Britain's agent in this game, and the other powers' agents, although none enjoy his historical celebrity, assume prominence in Anderson's presentation. Its thorough research clothed in smoothly written prose, Anderson's history strikes a perfect balance between scope and detail about a remarkable and mysterious character."