A portrait in her own words of the female Lawrence of Arabia, the subject of the PBS documentary Letters from Baghdad, voiced by Tilda Swinton, and the upcoming major motion picture Queen of the Desert, starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis, and Robert Pattinson and directed by Werner Herzog.
Gertrude Bell was leaning in 100 years before Sheryl Sandberg. One of the great woman adventurers of the 20th century, she turned her back on Victorian society to study at Oxford and travel the world, and became the chief architect of British policy in the Middle East after World War I. Mountaineer, archaeologist, Arabist, writer, poet, linguist, and spy, she dedicated her life to championing the Arab cause and was instrumental in drawing the borders that define today's Middle East.
As she wrote in one of her letters, "It's a bore being a woman when you are in Arabia." Forthright and spirited, opinionated and playful, and deeply instructive about the Arab world, this volume brings together Bell's letters, military dispatches, diary entries, and travel writings to offer an intimate look at a woman who shaped nations.
For more than 70 years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Listeners trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
"A fascinating read.... The story that emerges is thought-provoking.... Gertrude’s legacy makes easy parallels to the present, from world powers trying to determine the political shape of the Middle East to women’s struggles to be taken seriously by male colleagues. In A Woman in Arabia, she faces it all with humor, passion, and candor; even a century on, she’s a woman worth knowing." (NPR.org)
"[A] well-chosen selection from [the] letters and memoirs [of] one of the most remarkable figures of the late 19th and early 20th century.... Bell might be regarded as the much happier, female equivalent of T. E. Lawrence, who knew and admired her." (The Washington Post)
"I hope this collection of Bell’s prose, more than the upcoming film by Werner Herzog, stirs up controversy about her time as an archaeologist and spy and spearhead of post-WWI British policy in the Middle East, the effects of which can still be felt today." (Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire's "10 Must-Read Books for August")
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- Jonathan Krapf
A truly great woman
Whether you want to know more about the East, history, or just about interesting people, this book is definitely worth listening to. Not only is Mrs. Bell a fascinating person, her contribution to the shaping of the Middle East as we know it can hardly be overestimated.
Should you have watched the biographical film Queen of the Desert, you should definitely listen to this, as you would otherwise risk knowing almost nothing of import about Gertrude Bell.
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