First edition, third issue (‘Second Reprint’). Signed on the title ‘Wilfred Thesiger’ in ballpoint pen, below the author’s struck-through name. The Life of My Choice, Thesiger’s autobiography, describes his childhood in Abyssinia, his military service during World War II in Abyssinia under Wingate and in the Western Desert with the SAS under David Stirling, and his later expeditions throughout Africa and the Middle East. ‘Whether he is describing the daily events of travel or documenting his wartime experiences in Abyssinia and the Western Desert, Thesiger builds a systematic portrait of their backgrounds, context, historical implications, personalities and atmosphere with superbly unobtrusive craftsmanship and care. The labour involved in drawing these threads together, weaving a pattern of experiences, any one of which by itself would have represented a lifetime highlight for the ordinary individual, has been immense and ultimately fulfilling. The Life of My Choice began as an autobiographical “fragment” and grew into what can only be described as a literary masterpiece, which, it has been argued, surpasses in scale and achievement even the greatest examples of Thesiger’s earlier writing’ (Geographical Journal vol. 154 (1988), pp. 259-260).
The first edition of The Life of My Choice was published in May 1987, and two further printings appeared in 1987. The critical and commercial approval was matched by Thesiger’s own, as Alexander Maitland records: ‘[a]t the age of ninety he stated without a moment’s hesitation: “The books that have really mattered to me have been Arabian Sands, The Marsh Arabs and The Life of My Choice’ (Wilfred Thesiger. The Life of the Great Explorer (London, 2006), p. 400).