Monday, May 30, 2011 | Categories: Books
For most of us, he looked like Peter O'Toole. We think of him as Lawrence of Arabia, and imagine him dressed as a Bedouin Chief leading an army of Arab warriors mounted on camels fighting fierce battles in the middle of deserts. He was, he is, the embodiment of the romantic hero.
And for the most part that isn't wrong. Ned Lawrence, as family and close friends knew him, is one of those odd figures in history where the truth is stranger than the fiction and the facts are much more powerful than the hype.
Thomas Edward Lawrence, born in 1888, knew early on that he wanted to be a hero, that he wanted to change the world and that he wanted as much as possible to be his own man. That he accomplished all that while still in his twenties and well before his untimely and early death at age 47 just adds to the mystique of the man.
If it isn't enough that T.E. Lawrence was responsible for drawing the map of the present day Middle East, or inventing the idea of guerrilla warfare, or writing one of the great books of the 20th century, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom; Lawrence has a grip on the modern day imagination that just won't loosen.
Every decade brings its own interpretation of Lawrence and his life and times and every decade tries to pin down this enigma of a small man who accomplished great things in a manner that ultimately remains inexplicable. But the mystery of Lawrence doesn't stop the flow of explanation and the tide of interpretation.
This year, it was Michael Korda's turn to tackle exactly what Lawrence means to us all. Korda, an accomplished writer and publisher, has been trying to figure out Lawrence for decades and has just published Hero, The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia.
Michael Korda was at his home in upstate New York.