A Time to Keep Silence
June 10, 2011 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Writer, traveler, and kidnapper of Nazi generals, Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor -- Paddy to friends and fans -- is dead at 96. A silver lining: his biographer Artemis Cooper reports that the long-awaited final installment of his trilogy recounting a year-long walk across Europe as a young man in the 1930s, "has existed for some time, and will be published in due course."
posted by villanelles at dawn (40 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
"After a splendid dinner by the fire he starts singing, songs of Crete, Athens, Macedonia. When I go out to refill the ouzo bottle...I find the street completely filled with people listening in utter silence and darkness. Everyone seems struck dumb. 'What is it?' I say, catching sight of Frangos. 'Never have I heard of Englishmen singing Greek songs like this!' Their reverent amazement is touching; it is as if they want to embrace Paddy wherever he goes."

posted by Ironmouth at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2011


I had to take several long breaks while reading A Time of Gifts and From the Woods to Water to digest his relentlessly, intricately beautiful prose - he was a gifted stylist.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:21 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by Bromius at 1:21 PM on June 10, 2011

to digest

An encyclopedia helps with him also, though it's not a vomitorium of pre-digested book learning.
posted by stbalbach at 1:25 PM on June 10, 2011

An amazing man and writer. I think I may have found him via one of Sir John Keegan's books (his history of WWII and narrative style are also worth checking out.)
posted by zippy at 1:30 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by clavdivs at 1:35 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by The Michael The at 1:37 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by Gelatin at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2011

Proof that the good don't necessarily die young. His prose was like sunlight on a clear pond. Or moss on a monastery wall. There you go. Truly inimitable.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

As strange as it may seem, just saying "kidnapper of Nazi Generals" doesn't really do justice to the operation. I think I read most of Ill Met... slack jawed.
posted by boo_radley at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2011

So sad. I adore his books. What an amazing life.

posted by longdaysjourney at 1:46 PM on June 10, 2011

He was quite a man and a helluva writer.
posted by OmieWise at 1:48 PM on June 10, 2011


One of the authors I've meant to read for a long time. Time to make good on that I think.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:24 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by adamvasco at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2011

one of my father's favorites.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:27 PM on June 10, 2011


For a long, adventurous life and a beautiful literary legacy.
posted by Chrischris at 3:39 PM on June 10, 2011

Been waiting for volume three for, well decades, actually. Glad to hear it's finished, early draft or no.

Just yesterday I put in for his correspondence with the Duchess of Devonshire.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:16 PM on June 10, 2011

(Wrong of me, I know, but I really covet his house.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:19 PM on June 10, 2011

IndigoJones: "(Wrong of me, I know, but I really covet his house."

This has the best quote from the man: "Even swimming is a bit of a trial now,' he continued, 'thanks to this bloody clock thing they've put in me - what d'they call it? A pacemaker. It doesn't mind the swimming. But it doesn't like the steps on the way down. Terrific nuisance."
posted by boo_radley at 4:27 PM on June 10, 2011

I am better for having read his books. Godspeed Paddy.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:06 PM on June 10, 2011

They should call him Patrick Leigh "Bad Ass" Fermor, because that's what he was. I feel a little ghoulish, and I do mourn his death, but I am happy to hear that the last installment of the trilogy exists.
posted by chinston at 8:13 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by notashroom at 8:24 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by gudrun at 8:29 PM on June 10, 2011

posted by Bartonius at 9:35 PM on June 10, 2011

Definitely deserves all the respect he has. Great, great writer.
posted by vac2003 at 11:37 PM on June 10, 2011

Thanks, villanelles at dawn; I was also going to write a PLF post. The final paragraph of A Time of Gifts, at dusk on a bridge crossing the Danube into Hungary, is wonderfully written.
Downstream in the dark, meanwhile, there was no hint of the full moon that would transform the scene later on. No one else was left on the bridge and the few on the quay were all hastening the same way. Prised loose from the balustrade at last by a more compelling note from the belfries, I hastened to follow. I didn’t want to be late.
I worry that the third volume won’t match up to the first two (which were written forty-odd years after the journey), but hope for the best.

And great post title: I read A Time for Silence every year at lent, and visited St Michael’s Abbey in Farnborough a few years ago to see the Benedictine monastery where PLF wrote it.

posted by Huw at 1:35 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I read his books in High school, which is a large part of the readson I became fascinated with Balkan history and ethnology. I'll hoist a horinca in his honor tonight.

The Patrick Leigh Fermor Blog is an amazing space for all things Paddy Fermor. Dig into the archives for the good stuff, like this " Few writers are entitled to include in their Who’s Who entry: “Commanded some minor guerrilla operations.” His publisher, John Murray, whose father, the late “Jock” Murray, edited most of Leigh Fermor’s books, describes him as “almost a Byronic figure. If you met him on a train, before long he would be reciting The Odyssey , or singing Cretan songs. He loves talking, and people are always absorbed by him.”
posted by zaelic at 2:43 AM on June 11, 2011

posted by HandfulOfDust at 3:26 AM on June 11, 2011

It's hard to know whether to be more in awe of his bravery or his talent. Men like this put life in perspective.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:13 AM on June 11, 2011

amazing traveller, amazing writer.
posted by runincircles at 8:14 AM on June 11, 2011

posted by Mister Bijou at 9:34 AM on June 11, 2011


From "A Time of Gifts", a couple of sentences I really loved:

There was a particular delight in treading across the hard puddles. The grey discs and pods of ice creaked under hobnails and clogs with a mysterious sigh of captive air: then they split into stars and whitened as the spider-web fissures expanded.

The skaters on the canals... were suddenly scattered as a wind-borne portent came whirling out of the distance and tore through their midst like a winged dragon. It was an ice-yacht - a raft on four rubber-tyred wheels under a taut triangle of sail and manned by three reckless boys... It screamed past with an uproar of shouts as the teeth bit the ice and a noise like the rending of a hundred calico shirts which multiplied to a thousand as the raft made a sharp right-angle turn into a branch-canal. A minute later, it was a faraway speck and the silent landscape, with its Brueghelish skaters circling as slowly as flies along the canals and the polders, seemed tamer after its passing.
posted by of strange foe at 11:59 AM on June 11, 2011

The English toss around the term 'legend' quite a bit, but here it is apropos. Truly a legend.

posted by gracchus at 12:06 PM on June 11, 2011

What is this that possesses some men to 'go out for a bit', 'go stretch the legs' walking from here to ...?
posted by xtian at 5:02 PM on June 11, 2011

What is this that possesses some men to 'go out for a bit', 'go stretch the legs' walking from here to ...?

Bruce Chatwin has thoughts on this.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:18 AM on June 12, 2011

had. Sorry
posted by IndigoJones at 8:18 AM on June 12, 2011

Wonderful man. I wish I'd known him.
posted by tangerine at 4:05 PM on June 12, 2011

A few more links:

The Patrick Leigh Fermor blog is excellent and led me to the following anecdotes of meeting (and nearly meeting) PLF.
posted by Huw at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2011

Hitch weighs in.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2011

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