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Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia

UK Publisher: Penguin

T E Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia,” began his role in World War 1 as a map clerk and ended it as one of the greatest military heroes of the century. He altered the face of the Middle East, helped the Arabs gain their freedom after five hundred years of domination by the Ottoman Turks, and almost single-handedly formulated many of the precepts of modern guerrilla warfare. Yet he refused any honours for his achievements and spent much of the rest of his life in the ranks of the army and the Royal Air Force, in near obscurity.

A brilliant propagandist rhetorician and manipulator, Lawrence deliberately turned his life into a conundrum and set out to mystify those who came after him, thereby assuring his place as a mythical cult-figure for posterity. He saw himself as an intellectual rather than a soldier, a wanderer after sensations rather than a man of action; he was obsessed throughout his life by the idea of pain and had an abnormal fear of being hurt, yet emerged from the most devastating war in history as the ideal of heroism and courage. A man whose sensitivity allowed him to adjust his personality according to the company he was with, he wore and endless series of masks.

But who was the real man behind the masks? Michael Asher set out to solve the riddle of appearances. Retracing many of Lawrence’s desert journeys, he gained startling new insights into his character. The result is an extraordinary biography combining the techniques of the detective story, travelogue, epic history and high drama. It clears away some of the false trails, captures the authentic atmosphere of the Arab Revolt, and for the first time removes a cloud of film from Lawrence’s life.

“Lawrence’s love affair with Arabia, his unwavering belief in the Arab cause, his commanding strength of vision, and his quasi-masochistic need to test himself are all brought to unforgettable life in what surely counts as the definitive biography.” – Daily Telegraph

“a lucid, fast-paced account …irresistibly stirring” – Sunday Times