Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I don't often wish that I had someone else's life, but man, do I wish I had Patrick Leigh Fermor's! I read his delightful ruminations about monastic life last summer, and now I've tackled his youthful pilgrimage afoot across entre-WW Europe. I can give no higher praise to a travel book/memoir than to say that it makes me want to visit those places I've not seen (Prague, Hungary) all the more, and it makes me desperate to re-visit the places I've already seen (Melk, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, etc).
Fermor is amazing at putting history into context, and lavish with his philosophical and literary allusions. Fluent in Greek and Latin and French, and non-chalant about striding into Germany and learning the language in 10 days--what a dude! He knows architecture, the migratory history of pre-historic peoples and beasties, and is quite capable of pausing his book for several pages of art criticism on Breughel (Elder or Younger) or Cranach (Elder or Younger). In other words, Fermor is My Main Man. And I have several more NYRB volumes of his stuff to go, woo-hoo!
Later in life he became a war hero to boot. A pleasure to read.