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Setting the Desert on Fire: T.E. Lawrence and Britain's Secret War in Arabia, 1916-18 (Anglais) Broché – 18 juin 2007

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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9a8fa7d0) étoiles sur 5 21 commentaires
35 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9a1aed50) étoiles sur 5 Fascinating, accessible and engaging 25 février 2008
Par Robert Carter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Setting the desert on fire is a historical account of British Army missions in the Middle East during the First World War. However, its impact is a great deal more wide ranging than that sounds. Given the current delicate situation in this part of the world, this book takes the reader on a fascinating journey to the heart of the region, and certainly helped me to place some of our current follies in context.

At the heart of this book is T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), and his extraordinarily daring, brave and probably short sighted actions. There seems to be tendency these days to dismiss the Legend of Lawrence (partly created by his own writings), but Mr. Barr's assessment of his involvements take an intelligently balanced point of view. His involvement in the story does provide a dynamic end engaging drive, but there are many other equally important characters in the narrative. The author gives particularly welcome insight into the significant parts that Sharif Husein and Sharif Feisel play in the encouragement of Arab revolt against the Turks.

As a whole this book takes us through the events in detail, carefully mapping out the positions of the Turks, British, French and Arabs along the way, whilst placing the whole vital but small-scale actions in the context of the mass slaughter going on in France at the time. However, what really brings this book alive, and completes its important accessibility are the contemporary insights of the author. A trip by Mr. Barr to the site of the Hijaz railway and the various towns in the area provides numerous connections to the present day. This creates a freshness and energy that helps the reader to visualize the place and time with clarity and texture.
27 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9a1b5d98) étoiles sur 5 perfidia 19 avril 2008
Par David W. Straight - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
There's a great old song from 70 years ago called "Perfidia", and the title and lyrics seem quite appropriate to this fine new historical work. The war in Arabia conjurs up all kind of heroic and romantic visions, almost all centering on T.E. Lawrence. WW I was, for the most part, a hell of trench warfare and attrition. The individual counted for little here, and the death toll was huge. There was a longing for heroic figures during the war, and between the wars, and there were basically only two kinds of such figures. Both kinds were men who could act on their own (as opposed to the slog of trench warfare) and who could achieve visibly important deeds. One kind was the fighter pilots (two-seater recon pilots didn't count, even though on the English side this was about 2/3 of the pilots), and the other kind was Lawrence. Lawrence became a legend during the war: very few other English officers in WW I could roam about pretty much at will. Oxford-educated, independent-minded, ambitious, fluent in Arabic and sympathetic to Arab causes, charismatic, and, most importantly, a fine soldier with a good strategic and tactical mind, Lawrence was a natural hero, a natural legend.

Lawrence's story--Seven Pillars of Wisdom (abridged as Revolt in the Desert) helped keep the legend alive after WW I. But being a legend, creating a legend, and narrating legendary deeds (in a sometimes self-serving way) isn't always as enjoyable as you might think. Lawrence had to become Private Shaw to achieve anonimity. For a long time, the legend was the history: Seven Pillars of Wisom was the historical reference. Then there were books from the Arab point of view, often belittling many of Lawrence's claims. And, of course, we have Peter O'Toole on camelback. What is needed is a sorting-out. What actually happened? What was the larger picture? Barr's book does an exemplary job here.

Barr puts everything in perspective: how Lawrence got involved (he nearly didn't get involved at all in the conflict), the incessant tribal conflicts and loyalties, the clashing personalities on both the Arab and British sides, and, most of all, the politics. Arabia was a sideshow to the Western Front, but it had vital strategic importance. The Suez Canal was gravely threatened, and immense turmoil could have been caused among the Moslems in British India. So the British wanted a strategic victory, or at least a strategic stalemate in the area. They also wanted to maintain control after the war ended. The French had an interest in Syria, and felt that they would have to control Syria after the war. So the British were happy to make lots of promises which they figured they could renegotiate or break after the war, and were willing to supply money and a few supplies and an advisor or two--such as Lawrence. They also made agreements with the French, often diametrically opposite of what they had promised the Arabs.

So what you get here is a well-written tale of deeds, setting mines under railroad tracks, politics, promises, personalities. Barr visited many of the sites to get a firsthand feel of the area, and there are plenty of photos showing remains of trains blown up by Lawrence during the war. You get the overall picture, and you get a balanced perspective. Barr will tell you when he thinks Lawrence is exaggerating or dissembling. Lawrence remains a magnificent figure in the book--it's not anti-Lawrence. We need to put the legend in context, and we've needed this book for a long time!
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9a1b987c) étoiles sur 5 A Background to the Middle East Today 25 août 2008
Par Peter Lovett - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
For anyone who doubts the adage "that those who ignore the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them" then this is the book for them. Barr not only looks at Lawrence's role in the desert revolt of 1917 to 1918 but also the convoluted dealings of Britain and France in the Sykes-Picot accord and its consequences for the Middle East today.
The book is well researched with copious notes and references and extensive bibliography. There are also photographs of many of the people and places mentioned in the text. The book examines the reason for Britain's involvement in the region, the tensions between the India Office and its support for the ibn Saud family and the Egypt Office and its support for the ibn Husain family and the tensions between the Arab tribes themselves and the lack of a clear aim for the revolt. It also examines in some detail how the British government wanted to distance itself from the Sykes-Picot accord as the war progressed and the French insistence that it be honoured.
The only criticism I have is that the author has a tendency to interpose his own observations of the sites of events in the middle of the text about those events without the benefit of separate paragraph. Apart from this the book is an excellent read and well worth its purchase for anyone interested in the region, the desert revolt or T. E. Lawrence.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9a1b5948) étoiles sur 5 The Significance of the Arab Revolt 4 mars 2008
Par J. A. Brittain - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a very useful layman's history of the Arab Revolt. Contrary to most accounts, it does not see Lawrence as the central figure; rather, it details the motivations of, and the conflicts between, all the soldiers, politicians, and countries that were involved in the affair. This book puts Lawrence's role in context, making him a less important player in the entire scheme of things, but carefully demonstrating the critical contributions that resulted from his unique ability and personality.

The writing is, particularly in the beginning, slightly sloppy, cliche-ridden, and self-indulgent, but the narrative demonstrates careful and exhaustive research. However, the final page's attempt to make this story relevant to the current Middle East struggle, by claiming that Britain's failed pledges to the Arabs in 1918 are what created Osama bin Laden, is nonsense.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9a1b9ad4) étoiles sur 5 Laborious Read 26 mars 2011
Par Ken Willis - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I got this book for a reading project on Lawrence expecting a fast-paced, exciting read. I could not have been more disappointed. Reading the work was exactly that--work. I felt exhausted after each attempt to read it; the style and over-descriptiveness made it a "laborious read."

The author's style of inserting independent clauses in the middle of almost every sentence drove me to the brink of insanity. I became so distracted by the horrid habit, I lost track of what was being described and focussed on the sheer agony of knowing every thought of writing would be interrupted by a set of commas and literary noise.

The over-descriptiveness initially seemed helpful and provided imagery, but after one chapter I could not stand it. The author obviously knows what he is talking about factually, but his style kills the brilliance of his work.

I had to give it a single star, because as much as I respected the author's knowledge of the subject, I absolutely hated the grinding pain I endured trying to plow through it.

I recommend the biographical work "Hero" instead of this book.
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