Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts is an account of how, at 18, he walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. This was in the 1930s. Self finally got to it just a few years ago.
Fermor documented a time and place that, several years later, would be destroyed forever. A Time of Gifts is a wonderful book. Self will never, ever forget it.
Now, she is trying to catch up on her Economist reading, and she ends up lingering in the Books section, where there is a review of a posthumously published volume (Fermor died two years ago, at age 96).
Reading the review, self learns that Fermor wrote a second book, Between the Woods and the Water, which “covered his 1934 walk through Hungary and Transylvania, where he was as much at home in hayricks as in the hovels of gypsies.” Oh, joy! Self immediately added this book to her reading list.
But the third book, the posthumously published The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos, is also fascinating. It is “the full contemporary account of his time at Mount Athos,” and while it lacks some of the “magic” of the earlier books, it “has an elegiac tone. None of the people described survives and the countries visited have undergone wars and revolutions, leaving them virtually unrecognisable.”
In other words, the various “tribes” of the Balkans and central Europe were every bit as endangered as the Native American tribes who ruled from sea to sea, or the native tribes of New Guinea and other parts less traveled.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.