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31 August 2016

Lawrence of Arabia: language, romance and marketing a political cause

Here a totally fascinating programme about Lawrence of Arabia. It has many echoes in connection with the chaos in the Middle East today - though I mention that simply to encourage "modern" people to listen to it since these days it seems that an interest in history for its own sake is rarely considered a good reason for withdrawing one's gaze from financial information, shopping offers, sporting trivia or the inanity of contemporary politics.
The programme is about a genius who fell in love with a culture that was not his own, achieved amazing things when his country needed him to in connection with that culture, and then was semi-betrayed by his own people who were in thrall to the version of "modernity" that was all the go in 1919 (at Versailles).
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his book about his role in the Arab Revolt in Palestine in the First World War, is written in extremely "romantic" language, which was designed to sell a cause - partly himself, and partly the rights of Arabs to be taken seriously in the partition of Palestine. The first worked, and the second didn't. But in making the attempt, Lawrence left behind an extraordinary work of factual literature. It is one of the English language's many "must reads". 

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