Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Broken Road: A Time Of Gifts Part 3

Every month or so for the past 10 years I've been checking Amazon and Booklist to see when Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time Of Gifts: Part 3 is coming out. When Leigh Fermor died in 2011 without finishing the book I despaired but then I began to hear rumours that actually the ms. was near completion and his publishers, the venerable John Murray, were putting the book together from this ms. and Fermor's notes. Yesterday my internet persistence paid off and with a great deal of exictement I saw on Amazon.co.uk, a listing that has appeared for TOG Pt3 to be called The Broken Road. The first part A Time Of Gifts was published in 1977, the follow up volume, Between The Woods And The Water, 10 years later so this has been the longest wait of all, but since Fermor is no longer with us we're lucky to have the book in any form. 
Patrick Leigh Fermor was a war hero, a bon vivant, a wit, a polyglot, a belle lettrist, an impeccable prose stylist and, possibly, the last of the great English travel writers. In 1933 at the age of 19 after failing to get into university Leigh Fermor decided to travel on foot from London to Constantinople. He caught the ferry to Holland and began an epic journey, the first part of which he chronicled in A Time of Gifts. After making it to Constantinople he fell in love with Greece and travelled there until war broke out. He joined the SOE and worked behind enemy lines in Crete. His exploits as a commando were later made into the Michael Powell film Ill Met By Moonlight.
Patrick Leigh Fermor is the man as far as I'm concerned. He loved languages, travel, scholarship, cultural differences and most of all people. He never accepted the surface judgement on anything or anyone and preferred to investigate things for himself. He had a keen eye for the country, for buildings and human beings. There's a new biography of Fermor by Artemis Cooper out now and if the name is unfamiliar to you, you can read the excellent Daily Telegraph obituary here.  If you haven't had a chance to read A Time of Gifts yet consider yourself lucky - you are in for a real treat.