If you’ve ever seen the film Lawrence of Arabia (if you haven’t, you should) or have even a passing interest in its subject, the charismatic T.E. Lawrence, you should listen to my interview today on Fresh Air.
(Actually, I should warn Terry Gross fans that I’m hosting all week while she gets a well-deserved breather.)
Today I speak with Scott Anderson, who’s written a remarkable book about the events in the Middle East during World War I when, Lawrence, a young and slight British archaeologist who immersed himself in Arab culture somehow found himself in the British Army, dressed in Arab robes and leading Bedouin tribesmen in a revolt against the Ottoman Turks.
We spend the entire show today talking about Lawrence — how his exploits inspired a travelling stage show after the war seen by a million Britons, including the king; how he led his Arab friends to remarkable victories with no military training; how he was tormented by the fact that his country planned to break its promise of Arab independence once the Arabs had helped them win the war; and how the savage fighting he experienced changed him forever.
Anderson’s book, called Lawrence in Arabia covers far more than Lawrence. It also tells the story of three other young men — an American (from the Yale family, of the university), a German, and a Palestinian Jew who played interesting roles in the events of the day.
We get pitches for hundreds of books at Fresh Air every year, and when I took Anderson’s with me on vacation in July, I told our book producer Sam Briger that I loved it, but thought it was too complicated a story to make a Fresh Air interview.
Sam listened, but said everything I told him about the story sounded interesting, so we decided to book Anderson. I think you’ll be glad we did.
There’s more coming this week: Tuesday, tech writer Nate Anderson tells some fascinating stories about battles over improper and criminal uses of the Internet. Wednesday, we have a fun interview with Mexican actor Demian Bichir, who stars in the new FX drama “The Bridge” and did his first English-speaking role by sounding the words out phonetically. And Thursday, it’s the British actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, best known for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
You can hear Fresh Air at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on WHYY, 91FM. If you’re listening outside the Philadelphia area, find a station here.