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1lawrence of arabia and american culture the Making of a Transatlantic Legend

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Doubleday's memoir hints at but does not really address the political angle of their friendship and another aspect of Lawrence's interest in the United States. Doubleday, whose original publishing partner Walter Hines Page later became ambassador to England, was in Paris with the American peace delegation. Doubleday was also both American publisher and personal friend of Rudyard Kipling, who was promoting Lawrence's notion at the time of an American mandate for Syria in order to undermine French
imperial designs. Such connections make it clear that Lawrence's friendship with Doubleday had a political as well as a literary side to it.
Lawrence's acquaintance with and knowledge of American authors and intellectuals of the period illustrate an important aspect of his interest in the United States. His taste in American literature also indicates a fairly solid sense of which authors were important. Those listed in the inventory of Lawrence's books at his death in 1935 became representatives of the American literary tradition. Lawrence's literary prescience is further evidence that his image as literary-intellectual, one that found fertile ground in the United States, was not fabricated, as was the popular legend of Lawrence of Arabia. It was an accurate representation, and Lawrence deserved his newly found reputation. He reviewed for various periodicals, translated from French, Greek, and Arabic, and corresponded with the literary elite of England and other countries. And he was an author and a student of literature who in some instances understood better than his contemporaries the direction of Anglo-American letters.

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Chapter 6

Interlude, 1940-1960: Lawrence and Hemingway

Oh, if he had only died in battle!
An Arab sheikh upon hearing of Lawrence's death 1
During World War II, the Lawrence of Arabia legend continued to influence the imagination of the public. Literary critic David Garnett recalled that there was "a widespread refusal to believe in his death and his alleged activities took a place in both British and German propaganda." Behindthe-lines sabotage missions were sometimes attributed to him, and he was alluded to in books and articles, such as Robert Baker Oil, Blood and Sand, designed to explain to the public the geography, history, and importance of the Middle East, especially in 1942 when Turkey's neutrality was still in question and the Allies invaded North Africa. Even in the summer of 1945, as Allied forces occupied Germany and U.S. Marines landed on Okinawa, one could read about Lawrence in the New York Times. On the opposite coast, the Los Angeles Times carried two articles about him by Lowell Thomas that summer. 2
After 1945, attention remained focused on an unstable Europe. The Middle East, despite the growing importance of oil and the foundation of the Israeli state, continued to be a sideshow of the intense ideological competition of the Cold War. Therefore, one would not expect the Lawrence story to have had much news value at the time. On the contrary, producers tried again to make a film of his Arabian exploits, and essayists kept up a steady stream of articles about him, particularly in response to publication of Richard Aldington's controversial biography. Lawrence was also occa-
sionally used by novelists as a model for fictional characters, such as Vincent Berger in André Malraux The Walnut Trees of Altenberg.
Like Malraux, Ernest Hemingway had drawn on Lawrence story for one of his novels, For Whom the Bell Tolls ( 1940). Hemingway's debt to Lawrence has not been generally recognized, although it should come as no surprise. 3 The two men were contemporaries and had much in common. They were intellectuals as well as "men of action" who perpetuated their own legends. Hemingway admired the cult of experience and physical endurance that Lawrence, in the long tradition of English adventurers, represented in the twentieth century. However, Lawrence's role as military strategist and guerrilla leader, rather than his reputation as eccentric, flamboyant English traveler, appealed to Hemingway. As a participant and serious student of the First World War, and subsequently a writer of war literature, he read extensively about Lawrence, whose writing about the Arab Revolt, besides being history and autobiography, served as a textbook for twentieth-century guerrilla warfare. Thus, when Hemingway began his novel about a guerrilla operation during the Spanish Civil War he turned to the textbook Lawrence.
A comparison of works by the two writers provides a case study of Lawrence influence on writers of war literature. In constructing For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway relied on Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom in direct as well as subtle ways. These can be discerned by looking at Hemingway's reading habits and his tendency, noted by Hemingway scholars, both to supplement experience with reading and to research his war novels carefully. Textual analysis also indicates that For Whom the Bell Tolls is derivative of Seven Pillars. Finally, Lawrence can be viewed as an archetype Hemingway conveniently appropriated for his protagonist, Robert Jordan. 4


As with many literary models, the T. E. Lawrence-Robert Jordan analogy is a subtle one. Before exploring it and looking at the more obvious ways Hemingway borrowed from Lawrence, it is necessary to briefly overview what Hemingway scholars have determined about other sources for the identity of Jordan. They have found him to be a complex composite, whose identification Hemingway further obscured by being unusually secretive and sometimes contradictory about the sources he used in writing For Whom the Bell Tolls. 5
It is clear that Robert Jordan embodies elements from Hemingway's past, but his resume also departs significantly from that of Hemingway's life and experiences. Hemingway, for instance, was a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War. He was not a combatant, nor did he have much personal knowledge of guerrilla warfare at that time. 6 There are, as well, several convenient models Hemingway might have used in constructing a profile for Jordan. One analogue was suggested in 1966 by Cecil D. Eby in an article entitled "The Real Robert Jordan." Eby believed that Jordan was modeled on Robert Merriman, an American who fought and died with the Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer contingent from the United States which supported the legally elected, democratic government of Spain. It is plausible that Hemingway used Merriman as a rough model because there are parallels and Hemingway did meet Merriman. There are, however, a number of dissimilarities between Jordan and Merriman which suggest that the well-publicized American commander was at best only a partial model. There is more of Hemingway's past, for instance, than of Merriman's in Robert Jordan, and Jordan's political stance echoes Hemingway's skepticism far more closely than it reflects Merriman's Marxist leanings. 7
In addition, several American participants in the Spanish Civil War have independently written about the existence of at least three American guerrilla fighters, each of whom might have served as a model for Robert Jordan. The first writer, Edwin Rolfe, was editor of Volunteer for Liberty, the periodical of the American Lincoln Brigade. In an article for a November 1939 issue of the left-wing periodical New Masses, Rolfe named three American guerrillas: Irving Goff, William Alstrom (Aalto) and Alex Kuntzlich (Kunslich). 8 An early Hemingway biographer also referred to this group and made the connection to For Whom the Bell Tolls. Milt Machlin wrote: "Hemingway also spent long hours talking with . . . Irving Goff and a Brooklyn Finn named Bill Aalto who told a sad story of their combat buddy . . . who had volunteered to go off with the guerrilla fighters to the mountains to destroy a bridge and had never returned. The story seemed to fascinate Hemingway, and he stored it with his other impressions for future use." 9 Although Machlin may be overstating Hemingway's interest in this group, the anonymous guerrilla fighter he referred to was probably Alex Kunslich. According to Machlin, Hemingway interviewed Goff and Aalto and learned Kunslich's story. If this is true, then Hemingway may have also obtained other information from Goff and Aalto which was useful in writing his novel, such as a description of a bridge demolition the American guerrillas reportedly performed in December 1937. 10
Merriman, Goff, Aalto, and Kunslich are all suggestive as models for the character of Robert Jordan, but none of them fits Jordan that well. At best, any one of them could comprise only a small part of his profile. Alex Kunslich was captured and shot behind fascist lines, and was thus the only American guerrilla to die in Spain, but his fate does not approximate Jordan's. Who, then, could the "real Robert Jordan" be? In his study, Guerrillas in the Spanish Civil War, Barton Whaley aptly concluded that Jordan was a "semi-fictional guerrilla"--a synthesis of fact, imagination and, I would add, careful research. Hemingway was a craftsman who augmented personal experience with extensive reading. A survey of his reading just prior to and during the writing of For Whom the Bell Tolls fills in Jordan's silhouette.
In 1981, Michael Reynolds published Hemingway's Reading 1910-1940, an inventory of books Hemingway owned or borrowed during those years. Reynolds based his inventory on Hemingway's book orders from publishers, bills from bookstores, library cards, letters, and Hemingway's own fastidiously kept personal records. He compiled over 2,300 entries which he felt confident Hemingway had read. He then broke down Hemingway's reading statistically by genre, and certain patterns became evident. Not surprisingly, because Hemingway was a student of war and it became a central theme in his novels, military history and espionage ranked high on the list of most-read genres. So did biography about literary figures. Reynolds found that 25 percent of the biographies that Hemingway read were about literary figures, mostly British. Those who got the most attention were D. H. Lawrence, T. E. Lawrence, and Lord Byron. 11
Reynolds's entries indicate that Hemingway was greatly interested in books by or about T. E. Lawrence. He owned David Garnett The Letters of T. E. Lawrence and at least four biographical studies of Lawrence, including a copy of military historian Basil Henri Liddell Hart's Colonel Lawrence, which contained Lawrence guideline for guerrilla warfare, "Twenty-Seven Articles." He also purchased both of Lawrence accounts of his Arabian campaign, Revolt in the Desert and Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The latter Hemingway ordered in advance of its publication, and he included extracts from it in the anthology of war stories he edited, Men at War, published the same year as For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway may also have had some of these books about Lawrence with him during the Spanish Civil War and during the time he was writing his novel. 12
In writing a book about a guerrilla fighter working behind enemy lines, it is logical that Hemingway would consult what Lawrence had written about the subject. But how is the Lawrence story manifested in For Whom
the Bell Tolls? For his collection Men at War, Hemingway selected Lawrence chapter "Blowing Up a Train" as one of two representative extracts from Seven Pillars. Hemingway could have extracted other episodes from Seven Pillars that would have been equally representative of Lawrence's role in the Arabian campaign, but in "Blowing Up a Train" Lawrence portrays himself simply as a combat officer in charge of guerrilla operations behind enemy lines rather than a military strategist and controversial and charismatic leader sometimes at the head of an army thousands strong. His guerrilla operations along the Hejaz Railway consisted of dynamiting trains and bridges. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan's behind-the-lines missions also entail dynamiting trains and bridges.
The chapter from Seven Pillars that Hemingway extracted for Men at War is part of an eight-chapter sequence in Lawrence's work that begins with him establishing contact with segments of local Bedouin tribes and organizing a party of saboteurs to destroy a bridge. This action occurs in Book VI of Seven Pillars, titled "The Raid upon the Bridges." Besides describing an attempt to blow a strategic bridge and illustrating the operational mode of a guerrilla leader, the chapters in this section of Lawrence's account illuminate the private thoughts and personal tensions of an outsider working behind enemy lines to recruit partisans for a paramilitary operation. Hemingway seems to have had this sequence in mind when writing his novel because in many respects it closely parallels Jordan's story.
First, the purpose of Lawrence mission in "The Raid upon the Bridges" is similar to Robert Jordan's. Lawrence, at General Allenby's request, must penetrate the Turkish lines and destroy a strategic bridge over the River Yarmuk, which feeds into the Jordan River valley, at Tell El Shehab near Deraa in present-day Syria. It is a precarious mission that must be carried out on a strict timetable in order to prevent the Turkish contingent in Palestine from reinforcing its base in Syria during the ensuing British advance on Damascus. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Jordan's mission (made at the personal request of General Golz) is to destroy a strategic bridge in order to prevent fascist troops from reinforcing the Nationalist army before Golz's advance on Segovia. Jordan's signal to begin his demolition is Golz's preattack aerial bombardment. In Lawrence's account, we are told of an artillery barrage indicating preparations for the British advance. Here, then, is a description of a mission to destroy a bridge that could have been useful to Hemingway in writing his novel. Historian of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Arthur Landis, cites another description of a bridge demolition about which Hemingway might have heard, but in the instance of Lawrence's mission we know Hemingway had access to the story. 13
There are certainly striking similarities between Book VI of Seven Pillars and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway's novel begins with Jordan crossing enemy lines and making contact through a guide, Anselmo, with the partisans in the region. Anselmo is provided because he knows the country and has "people in the mountains." Jordan's first task is to win the allegiance of a guerrilla leader, Pablo, and then enlist the band of another leader, El Sordo. Much of the novel is taken up with the intricacies of recruiting these partisans and with Pablo's treachery. Pablo, the once unquestioned leader of the group, functions as the novel's antagonist, turning cowardly and treacherous and attempting to obstruct Jordan's mission. Eventually, however, he returns to the fold. By comparison, Lawrence is also provided with a guide, Ali, who would bring some of his people to assist Lawrence. Lawrence's first task was to recruit the Serahin tribe and then deal with an antagonist, Abd el Kader. The chapters of Book VI of Seven Pillars preceding the bridge attack describe Lawrence's organizational problems. In particular Lawrence, like Jordan, must convince his partisans to risk their lives for a bridge and then, according to his account, contend with treachery. Abd el Kader attempted to undermine Lawrence's mission and, like Pablo, ostensibly returned to the fold. The basic plots of this sequence in Lawrence's account and Hemingway's novel are nearly identical.
In these parallel accounts, Lawrence and Jordan have other problems to contend with besides recruitment and treachery. Bad weather, for instance, threatens their missions. "If it rained," Lawrence worried, "the camels would be unable to trot back across the muddy plains by Remthe, and the whole party would be cut off and killed." The rain hampered Lawrence's movements before the attack, and the retreat was secured only after a battle. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, an unseasonal snowstorm complicates and hampers Jordan's mission and threatens his retreat, just as the rain did Lawrence's. Most notably, however, both Lawrence and Jordan learn that the enemy has been forewarned. This complication gives an added tension to Lawrence's narrative because the reader knows that his bridge mission is, if not predetermined to fail, surely to end in a difficult retreat. In Hemingway's novel, an added tension is given to Jordan's bridge demolition because we learn that the fascists have become alerted to the ensuing Republican advance against Segovia for which Jordan's mission is considered a key operation. Both Lawrence and Jordan consider the outcomes of their missions highly uncertain, if not practically impossible. It may be more than coincidental that Hemingway titled the section of Men at War in which he uses Lawrence extract "War Is the Province of Uncertainty"; the entire
novel For Whom the Bell Tolls is built on this principle. It may also be more than coincidental that Jordan's name matches the location of Lawrence's bridge mission in the Jordan valley. 14
Besides the similar dynamics of their respective guerrilla groups, other comparisons can be made between Lawrence and Jordan regarding their military roles and their relationship to Arabia and Spain. For example, Lawrence was sent to Arabia by the military command in Cairo to organize Feisal's rebels who were inactive and on the defensive at the time. Jordan, sent by the government command in Madrid, found his guerrilleros inactive and on the defensive. Both Lawrence and Jordan had been in their respective fields of operations as students prior to their military service, had written books about their travels, and had become demolition experts. Lawrence was chosen by his military superiors for partisan duty because of his knowledge of the country; Jordan was chosen for similar reasons, although specifically for his knowledge of explosives. Both men are amateur soldiers with specialized knowledge of the local terrain and with the requisite technical skills for the job.
The fundamental difference between Hemingway's fictional episode and Lawrence's actual experience, of course, is that while Lawrence failed to destroy the bridge over the Jordan River and lived, Jordan succeeds in demolishing his bridge and dies. The matter of Jordan's death, however, is integral to the art of Hemingway's novel, and the treatment of death is a central theme in most of his fiction. Regardless of the model he chose for Robert Jordan, it would have been difficult for Hemingway to let him live. Wirt Williams in an essay entitled "Choosing Catastrophe and Death" maintains that with Jordan's acceptance of the mission he entered a dramaturgical entity with the bridge. 15 They become inseparable, and each had to be the destruction of the other. Otherwise, the reader would be left with romance instead of tragedy. If his novel was to symbolize the Spanish tragedy, Hemingway, even though he was loath to kill off his hero (as he wrote to his editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins), had to end his novel on a tragic note. Thus, the important difference in outcome between Lawrence's and Jordan's bridge missions is tied closely to Hemingway's portrayal of tragedy.
The most striking comparisons between Lawrence and Jordan, however, are their motivations and similar psychological predicaments, to which they respond in the same ways. Jordan's aim is to see Spain free of fascism; Lawrence strives for Arab liberation from Ottoman oppression. But both men are outsiders in their respective settings, men of modern sensibilities who come from technologically more advanced countries and who are
forced to operate at the margins of society. This predicament raises the problem of the modern hero in a primitive setting and, because it highlights their inner worlds, or psychic profiles, is the most subtle similarity between Lawrence and Jordan.
Georg Lukacs, in The Historical Novel, maintains that the particular combination of a modern "outsider" hero in a primitive setting is a necessary part of the modern epic. Whether or not one agrees with Lukacs, this combination works in both Lawrence's account and Hemingway's novel to contrast the heroes to their less sophisticated companions. Certainly their partisans are depicted as "primitive." Lawrence must organize tent-dwelling Bedouin tribesmen and Jordan a group of gypsies and peasants who live in a cave in the mountains. He refers to them as a "tribe." Moreover, Lawrence and Jordan view their respective partisans as primitive because of their lack of political development and technological sophistication. Lawrence's Bedouin fought among themselves and sometimes considered looting a prime motive in their military adventures. They were, therefore, especially eager to attack trains and had less enthusiasm for wrecking bridges. Jordan must contend with similar bickering and greed when persuading his partisans to risk their lives for a political cause. Pablo's band attacks trains, for instance, to see what there is to take. Even Pilar, the most politically enlightened of the partisans, is at first more interested in looting than in the welfare of the Spanish Republic. She explains to Jordan that it is difficult to get the partisans to destroy bridges because there is no loot or personal profit in attacking a bridge. Thus, Hemingway's Spaniards, like Lawrence's Arabs, are depicted more as self-interested bandits than as partisans loyal to a political cause, a depiction that led the Spanish literary critic Arturo Barea to object that Hemingway's guerrillas were inadequate representatives of the Spanish people. Indeed, they may be more reflective of Hemingway's reading of Lawrence than Hemingway's knowledge of Spanish partisan attitudes toward guerrilla work during the Civil War. 16
The primitiveness of Lawrence's and Jordan's partisans is also seen in their awe of sophisticated weaponry. Lawrence's Arabs are more impressed with the noise of artillery than its ballistic consequences. In a naive response to the noise of antiquated artillery pieces that General Allenby has given Lawrence to humor the Arabs, a Bedouin tribesman exclaims: "By God, those are real guns: the importance of their noise!" Rafael's response to airplanes in For Whom the Bell Tolls is comparable: "Airplanes [make] a noise to curdle the milk in your mother's breast as they pass over darkening the sky and roaring like lions." Explosions are what impress the partisans the most, and both Lawrence and Jordan rather ruthlessly use demolition as
a bargaining chip. "The noise of dynamite explosions," Lawrence wrote to a superior officer in 1917, "we find everywhere the most effective propagandist measure possible." To entice his Bedouins into action, Lawrence would promise to use his demolition skills to blow up trains for them. Jordan does likewise when he suggests to Rafael that with dynamite they can "hunt" tanks together. 17
Contrasted to their respective partisans, Lawrence and Jordan are outsiders, not just because they are foreigners from more technologically sophisticated societies but because they are intellectuals. The principal problem of the intellectual, critic Irving Howe has suggested in an article about T. E. Lawrence and the problem of heroism, is that he is burdened with self-consciousness and skepticism, carrying the freight of his intellect into any action he enters. 18 As Lawrence does, Jordan constantly analyzes his situation and questions his motives. Indeed, his introspection is almost his undoing. Instead of killing Pablo, for instance, who is obstructing his mission and threatening his life, Jordan finds a way to rationalize sparing him, even though it is the judgment of the Spanish partisans that Pablo should be "eliminated." It is difficult to imagine a classical hero, such as Ajax or Achilles, sparing the life of an antagonist, as Jordan and Lawrence do, on moral pretexts.
As a consequence of their "outsider" status, both Lawrence and Jordan are also torn between professional duty and personal sensibility. Their circumstances demand a delicate political balance, but more importantly, these circumstances produce inner conflict. On the one hand, Lawrence and Jordan care deeply about their companions and identify with them. Lawrence, for instance, goes so far as to adopt Arab dress and Jordan says: "That I am a foreigner is not my fault. I would rather have been born [in Spain]." On the other hand, Lawrence and Jordan must use their partisans as instruments for military gain. 19
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