John Mack explores the relationship between Lawrence's inner life and his historically significant actions. Interviews, correspondence, access to War Office dispatches and unpublished letters provide the basis for Macks's investigation of the psychological dimensions of Lawrence's personality. In addition, Mack examines the history, politics, and sociology of the time in order to weigh the real forces with which Lawrence contended and which impinged upon him.
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(197mm x 127mm x 36mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
Some years after the Arab Revolt, Faisal was asked to discuss the role of T. E. Lawrence in the war. "Lawrence?" he said, "He was a genius, of course, but not for this age. . . . A hundred years hence, perhaps two hundred years hence, he might be understood; but not today." John E. Mack's treatment of this perplexing, larger-than-life figure is frank in its admiration for a man whom he sees as not just a "hero" but also a "saint." Knightley and Simpson's 1970 Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia, which was based on newly released private papers and government documents, purported to expose Lawrence as a tool of British imperialism in the Mideast who quite simply hoodwinked the Arabs. That book also dwelt on Lawrence's sexual preferences, revealing the disturbing details of his flagellation disorder for the first time. Mack, a depth psychologist, finds rather that Lawrence used the British to aid the Arabs. He further marshals the biographical data into an argument for an unusually gifted, almost superhuman Lawrence obsessed from childhood with performing a great task: a need to imitate his boyhood idols from chansons de geste by freeing a people. While Knightley and Simpson have it that Lawrence's penitential self-abasement in the RAF ranks was justified, Mack contends that his conscience was overdeveloped, citing his shame over his illegitimate origins and early religious training. Above all, he considers his achievement so astounding that it transcends the accusations of his many detractors. Faisal's assessment seems most apt. If Mack's psychological detection intensifies the mystery, his subtly layered portrait only increases our fascination with this most bizarre 20th century legend. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - John E. Mack
John Mack, M.D., was Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and Founding Director of the Center for Psychology and Social Change, Cambridge, Massachusetts.