When T. E. Lawrence published The Seven Pillars
of Wisdom, he addressed the thorny problem of
transliteration with characteristic flippancy.
Asked by his editor if “Nuri, Emir of the Ruwalla”
bore any relation to the “chief family of the Ru-
alla,” or to the “Rueli” referred to elsewhere in
the text, Lawrence replied: “Should have also
used Ruwala and Ruala.” Similarly, when asked if
other inconsistencies in transliteration were in-
tentional, the author responded: “Rather!” Any-
one who has had to transpose the words of one
language into the letters of another can imme-
diately appreciate the temptation to which Law-
rence succumbed. (After all, his sarcasm attests
to a fundamental incongruity between tongues
that no system can completely overcome.) But
they will also recognize in Lawrence’s inconsis-
Previous Page Next Page