The Artist and the Archaeologist

What am I reading?

In the two or so weeks since my last WAIR post I have finished both Charlotte Reagan’s Just Juliet and Hilaire Belloc’s Hills and the Sea. My two main reads (i.e. the ones I am trying to read at least a bit of each day) is Wolfram by Giles Milton and T. E. Lawrence’s Letters.

Wolfram
Giles Milton is a narrative historian. I am reading this book, ultimately, because I once met him at the London Library and he was kind enough to say hello. We have said hello to each other a few more times since then and I have read, and greatly enjoyed, several of his books.

To be more specific – Russian Roulette about British spies in revolutionary Russia, Paradise Lost about Ataturk’s destruction of Smyrna in the early 1920s, and his most recent book The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, a rollicking account of Britain’s dirty tricks campaign against the Nazis during the Second World War.

Wolfram is the biography of artist Wolfram Aïchele. The book focuses on Wolfram’s childhood and his wartime experiences in the German army. It is surely the most personal of Milton’s books as Aïchele was his father-in-law.

I am currently half-way through the book and am enjoying – well, I am enjoying the artistic references (Wolfram Aïchele loved Gothic art and so do I) but the activities of the Nazis rather less so.

In common with Milton’s other books, Wolfram is a well-paced book and well-told story. And no, I am not only saying that just because Giles Milton says hello to me. That obviously helps but I do genuinely like his books!

T. E. Lawrence Letters
Wolfram is 318 pages long. Lawrence’s Letters is 873. Once I have finished Wolfram, the Letters may be my first read of the day for some time… or will it? T. E. Lawrence writes in a very readable way. Each page does not take at all long to turn. All things being equal, I think I may even finish it by Christmas. We’ll see. November is NaNoWriMo month and everything will give way to that.

As for the letters themselves, I am currently in 1910, so its early days yet (TEL is still only 22). However, Lawrence has made his first trip across the Middle-East (to visit various crusader castles for his university thesis) as well as France. Most of the letters so far have been to his mother or brothers but the explorer Charles Doughty has featured and I hope so will David Hogarth before long.

Lawrence himself comes across as quite a precocious young man, of definite views and outward looking: quite different from the person he will later be thanks to the Great War.

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This entry was posted in Twentieth Century History, Twentieth Century Literature, Twenty First Century Literature and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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