“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.”
“The story of T.E. Lawrence’s life is one well worth reading, particularly for its insights about the history of the Middle East.”
New York Journal of Books
“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.”
“[Korda] has redrawn the map, and reinvented T.E. Lawrence, coming closest to giving this elusive holograph in a white dishdasha a pulse.”
Los Angeles Times
“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.”
Associated Press Staff
“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 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.”
New York Times
“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.”
“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.”
“Hero is a portrait of Lawrence in all his complexity that is worth its 700-plus pages.”
New York Times Book Review
“[A] beguiling biography. . . . Korda is at his best describing, after the heroics in the desert, the touching antiheroics of Lawrence’s later life.”
“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.”
“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.”
“A splendid biography about a most unusual and extraordinary individual.”
“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.”
Sir - Alistair Horne
"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."
"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."
“Lawrence of Arabia, one of the great heroes of any age, has found the right biographer in Michael Kordaa keen judge of the human condition and a master story teller who can separate myth from reality without diminishing the grandeur of his subject.”
“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.”
Sir Alistair Horne
“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.”
Henry A. Kissinger
“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.”
…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 about the disputes among the various camps of Lawrence biographers and scholars; about the lasting impact of Lawrence's ideas for creating post-World War I borders in the Middle East…and especially about the merits of Lawrence's writing and the bizarrely complicated publishing history that Lawrence created for his magnum opus. In all these areas, his commentary is sagacious and valuable.
The New York Times
…captures the indomitable, tormented spirit of this extraordinary man…Korda grippingly chronicles Lawrence's military exploits and shows us better than previous biographers how likeable and lively the man could be…Hero is the work of an accomplished generalist. It is well crafted and excellent in its depiction of T.E. Lawrence as a multi-dimensional figure. It is a fine biography…
The Washington Post
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.)
T.E. Lawrence (1888–1935) lived an extraordinary life: archaeologist and explorer in the Middle East; military planner and leader of the Arab revolt in World War I; influential diplomat and statesman after the war; gifted writer; and a close friend and correspondent to writers, artists, and political leaders until his death in a motorcycle accident. Romanticized by Lowell Thomas and the popular press, he achieved wide fame in Britain and the United States that he sometimes used to advance his causes but more often shunned to protect his privacy. His story is well known, first from Thomas and later in the striking 1962 film, as well as through several serious biographies and volumes of his published letters, all of which Korda, successful publisher and prolific author, has examined to bring together the different phases of Lawrence's life, including his tense family background. The result is an engaging portrait of a talented man who achieved much in spite of a complex and sometimes self-destructive inner life. Korda calls Lawrence a hero in the classical sense, meaning one who trained himself for the role through moral and physical discipline, hard work, courage, and great skill at leading others. VERDICT Because so much has already been written by and about Lawrence, there is not much new here. The book's value is in its readability—it will draw in even those familiar with Lawrence. His life deserves a new biography every few years. History buffs and general readers will appreciate this well-written, fast-moving exposition of the rich life of an individual. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/10.]—Elizabeth R. Hayford, emerita, Associated Colls. of the Midwest, Evanston, IL
Book-publishing veteran and prolific historian Korda (With Wings Like Eagles: The Untold Story of the Battle of Britain,2009, etc.) offers a comprehensive, admiring treatment of one of England's most popular if controversial military celebrities, T.E. Lawrence (1888–1935).
The author does not restrain his enthusiasm for, and even awe of, his subject. He calls Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1927) "one of the great pieces of modern writing about war" and compares him with a dizzying range of characters, from Odysseus to Princess Diana. At first, Korda uses Joseph Campbell's work of comparative mythology, Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), to provide a framework, then, mercifully, abandons it. The author begins during World War I with the involvement of the diminutive young Lawrence, still in his 20s, already fluent in Arabic and other languages and already an authority on the Middle East. Korda describes military and political maneuvers and then retreats to narrate Lawrence's complicated birth (his parents were not married), boyhood, education and young manhood. Throughout, the author emphasizes Lawrence's deeply troubled relationship with his mother, but he also underscores his ferocious work habits, enormously high pain threshold (captured by the enemy, he endured severe beatings and rape) and unique combination of modesty (he refused honors) and pride (he wrote many letters to newspapers and cultivated friendships with George Bernard Shaw, Lady Astor, Thomas Hardy and others). Lawrence's military and political successes in the Middle East are undeniable, but his postwar life was a disturbing mixture of depression, enormous celebrity, a deep ambivalence about routine military life (he was in and out of the RAF) and sexual confusions. A motorcycle accident killed him at age 46.
Though occasionally fawning, an accessible, textured story of one man who intimately knew the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.