Antigua to Carchemish via Pforzheim

What Am I Reading?

My current reads are Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré and T. E. Lawrence’s Letters. I finished Giles Milton’s Wolfram just a couple of days after writing my last WAIR post and I am making such progress with Our Kind of Traitor that by the time I write the next one it too will be finished.

Our Kind of Traitor
I never meant to read Wolfram so quickly but it was such an engaging read I had to keep going even after I should have stopped.

The same is the case with Our Kind of Traitor despite the fact that it is nowhere near as good as le Carré’s best novels (e.g. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold).

How to explain this? Well, I do have other motivations for wanting to read OKoT fast – I am doing NaNoWriMo next month and I really want to finish it before then. Plus, I am on a mission to read three of le Carré’s more recent books (the other two being A Most Wanted Man and A Delicate Truth) so I don’t want to hang around with OKoT.

But, having said all that, if Our Kind of Traitor wasn’t such a plain good read you can be sure I wouldn’t be getting along half so well with it. The moral: Even when le Carré is ‘bad’, he’s good.

T. E Lawrence Letters
What all this means is that T. E. Lawrence’s Letters, which I was getting along with so well until about this time last week, has been rather left in the dust. A Christmas finish is not looking so likely, anymore.

I haven’t been completely neglectful of it. It is now 1912 and Lawrence is writing to his family and friends from Carchemish where he is engaged on an archaeological dig. I think it was later in his life that Lawrence described the Carchemish years (1911-13) as the happiest of his life. While you don’t get the impression from these letters that Lawrence is in paradise you do get something better – the chance to see his happiness from the inside, the chance to experience the moments that made him so happy.

The Carchemish period letters also reveal a rather touching side to Lawrence. When the first year of the dig ended, Lawrence set out on foot from Carchemish to Urfa (Kobane), a few miles to the east of Carchemish. Unless my geography is askew (don’t bet against it), he passed Urga and went on to Harran. On this journey he developed an abscess in his teeth, got heavily blistered feet and – if that wasn’t bad enough – came down with a bout of dysentery.

Lawrence was in a grievous state but mentions none of this in the letter he wrote to his mother afterwards. Now, maybe he should have been honest but I think it was rather kind of him not to want her to worry.

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

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