Thursday, July 21, 2005

John Bierman, The Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy: The Real English Patient, 2004.

I was in love with Ondaatje's The English Patient for quite a long time, after I first read it in grade 11. It made me read a good chunk of Herodotus.

I saw the review for this one--I can't remember where now--and placed a hold on it, quite some time ago now. At any rate, it finally showed up, and it's quite a good book. The Almasy of Ondaatje is based on the historical Almasy--and one of the things that surprised me was how the historical Almasy was as interesting as Ondaatje's character.

The biography is mostly the story of the early explorations of the Sahara, and Almasy's contributions to it. Bierman paints a vivid picture of the difficulties of the explorations, and the impressiveness of Almasy's contributions.

His work for the Abwehr during the war, and the nervous regard in which he was held by both sides make for a fascinating story--all the more so because there's just not enough information to make up one's mind about Almasy's actions and motivations.

It's a quick read, but an excellent one.