Book Review – Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

If any of you are bored, or maybe a bit ashamed hearing yourselves parrot to one another how much you hate Muslims, or Arabs, or one of the numerous other epithets you apply to people of Semitic ancestry without knowing a damned thing about them, you might find this a cleansing read.  [Long sentence, eh?]

I found it in a ‘free’ box in a thrift store held together by rubber bands, but there’s probably another read left in this copy.  If any of you can’t find a copy and want this one I’ll send it to you, rubber bands and all.

Lawrence was a young Englishman assigned early in WWI to go into the desert and try raising a rebellion among the Beduins against the Turkish Empire.  The allies were having an awful time with those Turks, getting themselves made monkeys of, their cannon-fodder reduced to cannon-fodder without seeing any positive results.  Someone got the idea a revolt in the background might help.

So young Lawrence found himself a camel and headed out to make friends of the tribes, to try arranging dissatisfaction among them.  To offer money, weapons, military advisors, explosives to weaken the back door to pesky Turkey.

Lawrence lived among them several years.  Became trusted by them, successfully stirred them into revolt, led them, came to respect and understand them.  Earned their trust, I should have said, to the extent any representative of a European power could be trusted.  And trusted them in a more-or-less realistic way.

These are his memoirs, his exploits, his observations about the people.  The events that came to be important as an influence on the future running right to the present.  And changed his entire perspective about loyalties, betrayals, patriotism and individual responsibility.

In some ways what happened to Lawrence is reminescent of what the Templars were accused of and slaughtered for by the European powers.  Becoming too familiar, dangerously understanding of the fabled, demonized enemy.

Lawrence could probably offer an Eighth Pillar of Wisdom if he’d survived until today and had a chance to offer his thoughts about what he’d see around him.

A worthy read, worth the rubber bands holding it together.  655 pages with introduction and remarks by his friend, George Bernard Shaw.

Old Jules

11 responses to “Book Review – Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence

  1. It’s always a welcome surprise to find something free that’s worth your time. Your post made me wish for an adventure.

    • elroyjones: Adventure is as easy today as it was then. Never easy. Gracias, J

      • I can remember a time when everything I had was contained in a couple of bags and it didn’t trouble me much to leave what wouldn’t fit behind. It seemed like adventure was easier back then, reckless to be sure but lots of fun.
        I could still leave the stuff behind without a second thought but, like your contract with the cats, I have a contract with an exasperating, stubborn, spoiled man whom I couldn’t bear to part with.

  2. I have never read the book, but have travelled through the areas he once fought in around Jordan and recently saw his motorbike in London that was to lead to his demise. One of my favourite movies, but must read that book some day!

  3. As a young man I grew up in a house full of T E Lawrence books and letters. My father was a great admirer of his and corresponded with Lawrence before his death.

    Seven Pillars is an interesting read. Lawrence understood the need for Arab self determination while at the same time he understood the objectives of his country in World War One. He wrestled with the challenge of reconciling the two. In the end he failed the Arabs while still winning their respect.

    The Hashemites of Western Arabia eventually ended up with the short stick. Today Jordan is their legacy.

    • Hi Len Rosen: Circumstance, literacy, intellect and duty conspired to create a good read and a human life a person wouldn’t yearn to emulated. We humans have our leg traps. Gracias, J

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