Appropriately sepia-ish, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is nearly finished, literally. I killed it. It was badly bound. So the middle has fallen out. I've been watching the David Lean film as well as a later BBC one with Ralph Fiennes, pacing myself so that the movie-action doesn't overtake the book's. And the book I've been taking in small bites, to last: each bite is desert, sand, rocks, some thorn tree, camels and silk. He writes about landscape more evocatively than I have seen it filmed. Perhaps because it is page upon page of minute observation by a man whose genius was perception and its communication. I have a feeling now for the desert of Arabia that I could never have imagined, before. He was in love, and saw, and recorded, everything.
It is interesting how the film epic is a telescoping of the book, a creation, not true. Peter O'Toole was actually brilliant, apart from the hair gel.
I will never transcribe the threatened lamb-feast; I promised more than I am willing to deliver. It must be read. If you buy the badly-bound Anchor Books edition it is on Pages 265 -268. Nevermind the tribes, all the names, all the logistical back and forths - this is really the most remarkable way of becoming immersed in something utterly foreign. Apart from landscape, his pictures of men (never women, there are none in his eyes) are extraordinary, and toward the end of the book there is a six page self-analysis on the occasion of his 30th birthday, which is riveting. And his views on women. Well. I think he must have had a baaaaad experience:
"The lower creation I avoided, as a reflection upon our failure to attain real intellectuality. If they forced themselves on me I hated them. To put my hand on a living thing was defilement; and it made me tremble if they touched me or took too quick an interest in me. This was an atomic repulsion...I had a longing for the absolutism of women and animals, and lamented myself most when I saw a soldier with a girl, or a man fondling a dog, because my wish was to be as superficial, as perfected; and my jailer held me back."
Hm. Maybe he didn't hate them. He hated himself?