Lawrence in Arabia (Anderson)

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East 
Scott Anderson, 2013
Knopf Doubleday
592 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780385532921

A thrilling and revelatory narrative of one of the most epic and consequential periods in 20th century history—the Arab Revolt and the secret "great game" to control the Middle East...
The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War One was, in the words of T.E. Lawrence, "a sideshow of a sideshow." Amidst the slaughter in European trenches, the Western combatants paid scant attention to the Middle Eastern theater. As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power.
Curt Prufer was an effete academic attached to the German embassy in Cairo, whose clandestine role was to foment Islamic jihad against British rule. Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Syria. William Yale was the fallen scion of the American aristocracy, who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order gain valuable oil concessions. At the center of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in the sands of Syria; by 1917 he was the most romantic figure of World War One, battling both the enemy and his own government to bring about the vision he had for the Arab people.

The intertwined paths of these four men—the schemes they put in place, the battles they fought, the betrayals they endured and committed—mirror the grandeur, intrigue and tragedy of the war in the desert. Prüfer became Germany’s grand spymaster in the Middle East. Aaronsohn constructed an elaborate Jewish spy-ring in Palestine, only to have the anti-Semitic and bureaucratically-inept British first ignore and then misuse his organization, at tragic personal cost. Yale would become the only American intelligence agent in the entire Middle East—while still secretly on the payroll of Standard Oil. And the enigmatic Lawrence rode into legend at the head of an Arab army, even as he waged secret war against his own nation’s imperial ambitions.

Based on years of intensive primary document research, Lawrence in Arabia definitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—Taiwan and Korea
Education—did not attend college
Currently—lives in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA

Scott Anderson is an American novelist, journalist, and a veteran war correspondent. He wrote two novels, Triage (1999) and Moonlight Hotel (2006), and five works of nonfiction, most recently, Lawrence in Arabia (2013). He is a frequent contributor to for the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Esquire, Men’s Journal, Vanity Fair and other publications.

Anderson grew up in East Asia, primarily in Taiwan and Korea, where his father was an agricultural advisor for the American government. His career began with a 1994 article in Harper's Magazine on the Northern Ireland events. The 2007 movie The Hunting Party starring Richard Gere and Terrence Howard, is partially based on his work in Bosnia. The 2009 drama film Triage starring Colin Farrell, Paz Vega and Sir Christopher Lee, is based on his novel. Lawrence in Arabia, his latest book, narrates the experiences of T. E. Lawrence in Arabia and explores the complexity of the Middle East.
Anderson currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

GQ article controversy
In a September 2009 issue of GQ, Anderson wrote an article on Putin's role in the Russian apartment bombings, based in part on his interviews with Mikhail Trepashkin. The journal owner, Condé Nast, then took extreme measures to prevent an article by Anderson from appearing in the Russian media, both physically and in translation. According to the NPR, Anderson was asked not to syndicate the article to any Russian publications, but told GQ he would refuse the request.

The 4 O'Clock Murders (1992)
The Man who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious
   Disappearance of an American Hero (1999)
Inside the League:The Shocking Expose of How Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American
   Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League
   (with Jon Lee Anderson) (1986)
War Zones (with Jon Lee Anderson) (1988)
Lawrence in Arabia (2013)

Triage (1999)
Moonlight Hotel (2006)

(From Wikipedia. Retrieved 11/10/2013).

Book Reviews
Scott Anderson's fine, sophisticated, richly detailed Lawrence in Arabia is filled with invaluably complex and fine-tuned information…Beyond having a keen ear for memorable wording, Mr. Anderson has a gift for piecing together the conflicting interests of warring parties…Lawrence in Arabia is a fascinating book, the best work of military history in recent memory and an illuminating analysis of issues that still loom large today.
Janet Maslin - New York Times

Anderson's setting of Lawrence among other foreign agents is an interesting and creative idea…the multi-character approach has the great virtue of opening up the story's complexity. Through his large cast, Anderson is able to explore the muddles of the early-20th-century Middle East from several distinct and enlightening perspectives. Furthermore, while he maintains an invigorating pace, his fabulous details are given room to illuminate.
Alex von Tunzelmann - New York Times Book Review

Cuts through legend and speculation to offer perhaps the clearest account of Lawrence’s often puzzling actions and personality.... Anderson has produced a compelling account of Western hubris, derring-do, intrigue and outright fraud that hastened—and complicated—the troubled birth of the modern Middle East.
Washington Post

Thrilling....a work as galvanizing and cinematic as Lean’s masterpiece.... It’s a huge assignment, explaining the modern roots of the region as it emerged from the wreckage of war. But it is one that Anderson handles with panache.... Anderson brilliantly evokes the upheavals and head-spinningly complex politics of an era.... His story is character-driven, exhilaratingly so—Prufer, Yale, and Aaronsohn’s stories are richly sketched....shows how individuals both shape history and are, at the same time, helpless before the dictates of great power politics."
Boston Globe

No four-hour movie can do real justice to the bureaucratic fumblings, the myriad spies, heroes and villains, the dense fugue of humanity at its best and worst operating in the Mideast war theater of 1914-17. Thrillingly, Scott Anderson's Lawrence in Arabia (4 out of 4 stars) does exactly that, weaving enormous detail into its 500-plus pages with a propulsive narrative thread”
USA Today

Anderson’s easy prose...makes liberal use of primary sources and research but reads like a political thriller. The central message seems as relevant today as it was a century ago: revolutions whose success is dependent on the patronage of external powers come at a high price—a "loss of autonomy" and an influx of foreign carpetbaggers who show little concern for the inhabitants of the newly "free" land.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) Follows four men, including Aaron Aaronsohn and T.E. Lawrence, in the World War I Middle East as imperialism, revolution, intrigue, and ambition defined the Western role there. Their legacy is still with us.
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Readers seeking to understand why turmoil has been so omnipresent in the Middle East will benefit from Anderson's easy prose, which makes liberal use of primary sources and research, but reads like a political thriller.

A well-fleshed portrait of T.E. Lawrence (1888–1935) brought in burnished relief against other scoundrels in the Arabian narrative.... Anderson thoroughly explores the making of the Lawrence legend, from the effortless taking of Aqaba to "the fantasy of the 'clean war' of Arab warriors." A lively, contrasting study of hubris and humility.
Kirkus Reviews

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