Saturday, June 11, 2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor, RIP

Today's NY Times carries the obituary of Patrick Leigh Fermor. It is worth a look, and his books are worth reading.

Of them, I have read through A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, accounts of his late teenage journey, mostly afoot, from the Netherlands to Hungary, and from Hungary to the Iron Gates; also The A Time to Keep Silence, accounts of stays in Benedictine and Trappist monasteries, and of visits to long disused cave monasteries in Cappadocia. There are a couple more of his books around the house, collections of travel pieces on northern and southern Greece.

In 2006, the New Yorker carried a profile of Fermor by Anthony Lane. I was a little disappointed to learn that he had taken some liberties with the characters in his books; a German companion in Vienna was a stand-in for two brothers, he said. Still, I'm glad to have read his books.

He spent the middle 1930s on his walk across Europe partly because he had been expelled from King's School in Cambridge; his final offense, among he says many, was to be caught holding hands with a grocer's daughter. The other summer I noticed in a used book store a book on this school, and at once checked in the index. The book, published late 1950s or early 1960s, mentions Fermor without reference to his exit.

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