cover image Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

Michael Korda, Harper, $34.99 (768p) ISBN 978-0-06-171261-6

This magisterial biography of British soldier and adventurer T.E. Lawrence celebrates a life spent subverting authority in the most glamorous—and bizarre—ways. S&S editor-in-chief emeritus Korda (Ike) gives a rousing, lucid account of Lawrence's leadership of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during WWI and his diplomatic championing of Arab nationalism. But it's Lawrence's artistic bent—his Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a classic of war literature—and his magnetic but tortured soul that take center stage. Korda's Lawrence blends fierce ambition, monkish austerity, self-abasing masochism (sparked, perhaps, by whippings at the hands of his mother and Turkish soldiers), a disdain for higher-ranking brass, and a penchant for dominating it. After the war he tried to restrain these tendencies by enlisting as a lowly private in the Royal Air Force when he was a celebrity and confidant of government ministers. Korda perhaps exaggerates the novelty and significance of Lawrence's military exploits and makes an unconvincing stab at framing him in Joseph Campbell–inspired heroic archetypes. Still, Korda's vivid portrait of Lawrence and his warring impulses captures the brilliance and charisma of this fascinating figure. 16 pages of b&w photos, 26 b&w photos throughout. (Nov.)