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Quiz about Writing About the Desert
Quiz about Writing About the Desert

Writing About the Desert Trivia Quiz

The desert has been an important location, sometimes amounting to a character in its own right, in many books of fiction and non-fiction over the years. Can you identify the author of each of these ten examples?

A matching quiz by looney_tunes. Estimated time: 3 mins.
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3 mins
Match Quiz
Quiz #
Dec 03 21
# Qns
Avg Score
8 / 10
Top 35% Quiz
Last 3 plays: workisboring (10/10), gracious1 (6/10), jibberer (10/10).
(a) Drag-and-drop from the right to the left, or (b) click on a right side answer box and then on a left side box to move it.
1. 'The Land of Little Rain' (1903)  
  Gertrude Bell
2. 'Syria: The Desert and the Sown' (1907)  
  T. E. Lawrence
3. 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' (1926)   
  Michael Ondaatje
4. 'Wind, Sand and Stars' (1939)  
  Elleston Trevor
5. 'Alamein to Zem Zem' (1946)  
  J. M. G. Le Clezio
6. 'The Flight of the Phoenix' (1965)  
  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
7. 'Dune' (1965)  
  Mary Hunter Austin
8. 'Désert' (1980)   
  Frank Herbert
9. 'The English Patient' (1992)   
  Keith Douglas
10. 'Desert God' (2014)   
  Wilbur Smith

Select each answer

1. 'The Land of Little Rain' (1903)
2. 'Syria: The Desert and the Sown' (1907)
3. 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' (1926)
4. 'Wind, Sand and Stars' (1939)
5. 'Alamein to Zem Zem' (1946)
6. 'The Flight of the Phoenix' (1965)
7. 'Dune' (1965)
8. 'Désert' (1980)
9. 'The English Patient' (1992)
10. 'Desert God' (2014)

Most Recent Scores
Jul 09 2024 : workisboring: 10/10
Jul 02 2024 : gracious1: 6/10
Jun 14 2024 : jibberer: 10/10

Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. 'The Land of Little Rain' (1903)

Answer: Mary Hunter Austin

This collection of short stories and essays about the plants, animals and people inhabiting the deserts of the southwestern deserts of the United States was first published in 1903. Austin provides a combination of scientific information and personal experience in her portrayal of the life she has experienced in the Mojave Desert.

Her intended audience, those who have lost touch with the link between humans and nature because of urbanisation, are shown the benefits of a deeper understanding of, and closer relationship with, the natural world.
2. 'Syria: The Desert and the Sown' (1907)

Answer: Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell was a truly amazing woman, who explored much of the Middle East during the early years of the 20th century, and made major contributions to the development of British foreign policy in the region. She has been called "the female Lawrence", a reference to the fact that she played a similar role to that of T. E. Lawrence, but given the difficulties she had to overcome due to her gender, her accomplishments are even more impressive. Her work after World War I in establishing the modern nation of Iraq led to King Faisal helping her establish the Iraqi Archaeological Museum in Baghdad, based on her personal collection of artefacts. She wrote extensively about her travels, describing and photographing the places, the people, and their history. 'Syria: The Desert and the Sown' described a trip through Syria, visiting cities that included Jerusalem, Beirut, Antioch and Damascus, along with the deserts in between.

As well as digging up her writings, you might be interested in reading the 2015 fictionalised biography 'Bell of the Desert' by Alan Gold. While it is classified as a novel, it was written after extensive research to ensure the historical accuracy of the events in which it is set.
3. 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' (1926)

Answer: T. E. Lawrence

This may be the first book you thought of when you saw the title of this quiz, as it was for me when I chose the topic. Written by T. E. Lawrence (nicknamed "Lawrence of Arabia"), this autobiography describes his experiences leading the Arabs in their opposition to the Ottoman Turks during World War I. This revolt was supported by the British (in whose army Lawrence was serving) to further their own interests, in terms both of the war and of the anticipated post-war political changes in the Middle East. Lawrence, who had previously spent four years working as an archaeologist in Syria (during which time he met Gertrude Bell), and was a fluent speaker of Arabic, was allocated the role of liaison officer between the British and the Arab leaders. His efforts became popularised through the writing of an American journalist, Lowell Thomas.

Before the war, Lawrence had started a book using the title 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom', planned to be a scholarly dissertation on the cities of Cairo, Smyrna, Constantinople, Beirut, Aleppo, Damascus and Medina. He abandoned the incomplete work when war broke out, but kept the title for his memoir about the Arab Revolt.
4. 'Wind, Sand and Stars' (1939)

Answer: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Count Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French pilot who spent much time in the air over the deserts of North Africa. This book describes a number of his experiences, including a crash in 1935 that left him and his navigator stranded in the desert, with their supplies dwindling along with their hopes of air rescue or of locating an oasis. They were rescued by a camel-riding Bedouin who happened to come across them.

The French title for the book is 'Terre des hommes' ('Land of Men'). The English version (it is not exactly a translation, since there was quite a bit of modification of the content by the author in its production) uses a title which is closer to an earlier title, 'Etoiles par grand vent' ('Stars in High Wind'). It evokes more clearly the sense of the vastness of the desert, which is one of the principal themes. The French title, on the other hand, is more suggestive of the other themes, including friendship and the importance of solidarity in the face of difficulties, as one tries to find the meaning in life.
5. 'Alamein to Zem Zem' (1946)

Answer: Keith Douglas

Keith Douglas, a British poet, wrote this memoir of his experiences as a tank commander in the Western Desert Campaign during World War II. The period covered starts with the Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October - 11 November, 1942) through to early 1943, when he was wounded during fighting in the wadi (dry river valley) called Zem Zem, located near the border between Tunisia and Libya.

In December, Douglas was transferred back to England, and he was involved in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, dying three days later in combat.
6. 'The Flight of the Phoenix' (1965)

Answer: Elleston Trevor

The title may be more familiar to some from either of the two movies based on this book, a 1965 movie starring Jimmy Stewart and a 2004 film featuring Dennis Quaid. Both films, like the book, tell about the survivors of a plane crash in the desert, but which desert is variable.

In the book, they crash in the Sahara Desert, after a flight carrying passengers from a Libyan oil town encounters a sandstorm. The survivors, knowing that they had been blown well off course, make various attempts at being rescued, eventually deciding that they need to use the wreckage of their plane to construct a new aircraft (like a phoenix arising from the flames that destroyed its earlier incarnation) that can fly them to safety.
7. 'Dune' (1965)

Answer: Frank Herbert

'Dune' is set on the planet Arrakis, which is entirely desert. Herbert has said that he got the concept from a visit to the Oregon Dunes in 1957, where he was impressed by the seemingly inexorable movement of those sand dunes. He wrote a series of short stories, which eventually became amalgamated into the novel.

The desert does not play a terribly significant role in the political intrigues which are the focus of the novel, but the vast seas of sand that cover the planet are the only place in the universe where one can find the spice melange, highly prized because it offers a long life and enhanced psychic abilities. Mining it is dangerous, however, as the area where it is produced is the home of giant sandworms (whose life cycle produces both the melange and the desert conditions).
8. 'Désert' (1980)

Answer: J. M. G. Le Clezio

J. M. G. Le Clezio was the first recipient of the Grand prix de littérature Paul-Morand (an award from the Académie française based on an author's entire work) in 1980. He subsequently won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008. 'Désert', whose publication is considered to have been the stimulus for the 1980 award, is not set entirely in the desert, but the desert is an important part of events, as her roots in a desert tribe have a major influence on the decisions and actions of Lalla, a Tuareg woman who is the central character of the main section of the book.

Her story is framed by a much earlier story set in a Tuareg uprising against the French in Morocco, just before the Morocco was established as a French Protectorate.
9. 'The English Patient' (1992)

Answer: Michael Ondaatje

This story is set in a villa near Florence, which is being used as a hospital, during the later stages of World War II. The story focuses both on the relationships between the residents and staff of the hospital, interspersed with flashback sequences as the seriously-injured patient who has forgotten who he is or what happened to him (but who speaks English, hence his name) struggles to recall the events that brought him there. He turns out to be a Hungarian count named László de Almásy, who was part of a British expedition mapping the desert shortly before the fighting arrived in North Africa. In bits and pieces, the love affair and violent incidents that took him from the desert to the hospital in Florence become clear.

Winner of the Booker Prize in 1992, the book became the basis for an award-winning film in 1996, which starred Ralph Fiennes as the count, and Julliette Binoche as Hana, the nurse who cared for him as he struggled to regain his memory.
10. 'Desert God' (2014)

Answer: Wilbur Smith

The South African author Wilbur Smith has written books with a variety of African locations. 'Desert God' is part of a series set in Ancient Egypt, whose first instalment was 'River God' (1994). They follow the story of the fictional Pharaoh Tamose and his family, as seen through the eyes of his mother's slave, Taita.

In this book, Taita (who by now has been freed, and is a trusted servant) must seek help to overthrow the Hyksos' army that had occupied the Nile delta, and threaten the kingdom in Southern Egypt. To do this, he must travel up the Nile (into enemy territory) and then across the deserts of Arabia to reach Babylon, before heading out to sea in order to establish an alliance with Crete.
Source: Author looney_tunes

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor LadyCaitriona before going online.
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