Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph: The Complete 1922 Textby T. E. Lawrence
When T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom first appeared in 1922 it was immediately recognized as a literary masterpiece. In writing his extraordinary account of the Arab Revolt of 1916-1918 and his own role in it, T.E. Lawrence sealed his place in history and legend as Lawrence of Arabia. Widely regarded as the last great romantic war story and described by Winston Churchill as one of "the greatest books ever written in the English language," it conveys a world of wonders, written in the same committed fashion that Lawrence applied to his duties in Syria, this is a towering achievement of both autobiography and military history, as well as a first-rate adventure story, Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a must read. Wilder Publications is a green publisher. All of our books are printed to order. This reduces waste and helps us keep prices low while greatly reducing our impact on the environment.
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When one man killed another in an argument, the whole alliance could have fallen apart. Blood calls for blood, and Laurence is assigned the role of executioner. How primitive, we might think today, calling for juried trials and appeals and delays. But to Lawrence, it’s an event that happened, a purpose that required action, so death was dealt. In another chapter the author muses on the mathematical, biological and psychological impetus for war. I find myself wondering where our emphasis is placed, and whether our battle lines aren’t missing some vital ingredients. As a meeting approaches, Lawrence deliberately doesn’t tell Feisal that someone is a politician, and I laugh. Filled with vivid descriptions of land, people, and life, and filled equally with war, Lawrence’s Seven Pillars is written in readably short chapters, with scenes bright and dark, offering visual counterpoint to tactics and analysis. There is history here, and mystery. There are oversimplified suggestions of the Semetic mind, paired with French intrigue, then Christian folly. There’s an honest reflection that peoples are not all the same, not in thought, word or interpretation. For myself, I was surprised how often Lawrence was ill, and yet functioned, worked and thought. I find myself admiring him, not as the star of a movie, but as a real man, eating camel meat, thanking friends, enjoying the breath of life. I love the pictures too, of other real people from a culture I still cannot claim to know. Perhaps I even enjoy their company vicariously. Battle plans stop for coffee or calls of nature, knives are sharp, and lies are sharper. Seven Pillars is a long book (660 close-written pages in my version), and a leisurely read. I enjoyed its leisure and was sorry at its ending. It almost seems a tale unfinished, like life, where history tells the next and the page is unwrit. The subtitle is “A Triumph” but I wonder what the author meant by it--but perhaps real triumph lies not in victory but in human relationships. Disclosure: We read this in our book group.