And then there was the incomprehensible folly: the spy rings and small-bore deceits and devious egos of the many individuals who would, in the end, have some hand in seizing the lands of the Middle East and creating a catastrophic reordering of the world. It’s the latter theater of intrigue that Anderson has chosen to chronicle in entertaining detail.
The pleasure and heartache of books like Anderson’s are in the connections we can make between the past and the present—especially when they concern the Middle East. We all know that the Western powers made (and continue to make) the same mistakes over and over in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but a skilled and perceptive writer like Anderson . . . . can provoke a kind of intellectual astonishment, a feeling of revelation.
Scott Anderson’s “Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East” is by all accounts an extraordinary achievement. Carefully researched, centred around a vibrant cast of characters, all woven together in a beautifully written tale about a period whose consequences are far from played out.
The review seems an appropriate hors d’oeuvre.