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A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube [Paperback]

By Patrick Leigh Fermor & Jan Morris (Introduction by)
Our Price $ 14.41  
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Item Number 426310  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   321
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.18" Width: 6.34" Height: 0.73"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 3, 2005
Publisher   NYRB Classics
ISBN  1590171659  
EAN  9781590171653  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
At the age of eighteen, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off from the heart of London on an epic journey--to walk to Constantinople. "A Time of Gifts" is the rich account of his adventures as far as Hungary, after which "Between the Woods and the Water" continues the story to the Iron Gates that divide the Carpathian and Balkan mountains. Acclaimed for its sweep and intelligence, Leigh Fermor's book explores a remarkable moment in time. Hitler has just come to power but war is still ahead, as he walks through a Europe soon to be forever changed--through the Lowlands to Mitteleuropa, to Teutonic and Slav heartlands, through the baroque remains of the Holy Roman Empire; up the Rhine, and down to the Danube.
At once a memoir of coming-of-age, an account of a journey, and a dazzling exposition of the English language, "A Time of Gifts" is also a portrait of a continent already showing ominous signs of the holocaust to come.

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More About Patrick Leigh Fermor & Jan Morris

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) was an intrepid traveler, a heroic soldier, and a writer with a unique prose style. After his stormy schooldays, followed by the walk across Europe to Constantinople that begins in A Time of Gifts (1977) and continues through Between the Woods and the Water (1986), he lived and traveled in the Balkans and the Greek Archipelago. His books Mani (1958) and Roumeli (1966) attest to his deep interest in languages and remote places. In the Second World War he joined the Irish Guards, became a liaison officer in Albania, and fought in Greece and Crete. He was awarded the DSO and OBE. He lived partly in Greece--in the house he designed with his wife, Joan, in an olive grove in the Mani--and partly in Worcestershire. He was knighted in 2004 for his services to literature and to British-Greek relations.

Jan Morris was born in 1926, is Anglo-Welsh, and lives in Wales. She has written some forty books, including the Pax Britannica trilogy about the British Empire; studies of Wales, Spain, Venice, Oxford, Manhattan, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Trieste; six volumes of collected travel essays; two memoirs; two capricious biographies; and a couple of novels--but she defines her entire oeuvre as "disguised autobiography." She is an honorary D.Litt. of the University of Wales and a Commander of the British Empire. Her memoir Conundrum is available as a New York Review Book Classic.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
mesmerizing  Apr 11, 2008
This well written & mesmerizing book is about one man's journey through Europe & his life. He distills all his experiences into his trek, how he approaches it & how he sees it. I have just started reading this but am looking forward to a long, satistying relationship with his other writings.
Halcyon interlude between the wars  Oct 11, 2007
Patrick Leigh Fermor was born in Great Britain just before the start of the First World War. When his mother and older sister left by ship to join his father in India, Fermor was left in England so that one of the family would survive if the ship were hit by a torpedo. He had been left in the care of a 'kind and simple' farm family who were shy about disciplining him, and so when his mother and sister returned four years later they found their little boy had transformed into a 'little savage' with a heavy Northamptonshire accent. While Fermor did become more civilized during a tour of British schools, he was never able to totally adhere to the all-important rules of those strict establishments. As a consequence, after being kicked out of school for the umpteenth time, Fermor decided to give up the normal scheme of things and cross the channel to start a walk from Holland to Constantinople. The month was December and the year was 1933. A Time of Gifts is his record of the first half of this trip.

Europe had had a tradition going back hundreds of years of encouraging and succouring the wandering student. This tradition dictated that Fermor was to be taken in, fed, housed, and helped along his way. This was true of all levels of society (he slept in haylofts, cowsheds and myriad castles, crumbling and sumptuous.) He was to be engaged and enjoyed by those he met, not feared or shunned or hurried on his way. I wonder if this attitude still survives in places. One hopes.

Fermor, besides giving a detailed description of the people and places he encounters, also makes the history of these places seem real. He delves into the important part the people of the Frisian Islands (located on the edge of the Zuider Zee) played in the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. We learn about the history of the croissant (hint -it has to do with the siege of Vienna by the Turks). He presents and discusses layers and layers of fascinating history as he travels the invasion prone Danube valley. Between 400 AD and 500 AD, there was almost grid-lock among different peoples invading this area to fill in the vacuum created by the fall of the Roman Empire -the Huns arrived and displaced everyone they encountered. The Visigoths and Vandals went charging westwards and southward. The Suevi, Bayuvars, and the Rugii all squeezed in there somewhere. One of the Rugii joined the Roman legions and worked his way up to Emperor, and ruled well until he was sliced in two (from the collar-bone to the loins) by Theodoric the Ostrogoth, marking the end of the Roman Empire and the start of the Dark Ages.

Fermor visits the Danubian castle where Richard the Lion Hearted was held for so long. In the shadows of this moody, history soaked edifice, he recounts the incredible tale of King Richard I -how he insulted Leopold, Duke of Austria, on the Third Crusade, and how, summoned back to England because of the mis-rule of Prince John, he was captured and imprisoned until freed by his minstrel, Blondel, who had visited every castle on the Danube, singing a particular song that he knew only Richard would recognise the second verse to.

Fermor meets a rich variety of kind, wonderful, interesting people and you can't help but wonder how they fared in the cataclysmic storm about to engulf them, advance clouds of which occasionally chill this other wise sunny narrative. For example, Fermor arrives in Vienna by truck in a rainstorm to find the power out and martial law in effect because of action by socialist sympathizers (the authorities explain that usually these conflagrations are caused by Nazi sympathizers, but this one happens to be a socialist problem).

Reading this book, one gets a feel for what a wonderful geographic and social anomaly Europe is. The variety of peoples, the history, the art, the architecture and the number of cultures and languages all packed into a relatively small area are spectacular.

A paradox -the vast majority of people encountered are kind, decent human beings, and yet Fermor wanders across regions of Europe where the most unspeakable and wide-ranging atrocities were to occur a short five years later. How could this come to be?

Some of Fermor's descriptions and musings on art and architecture can be abstruse and frustratingly prolix, but those occasions are thankfully rare. Here are just a handful of the words I had to look up while reading this book -flocculent, exfoliation, fiacres, glaucous, recondite, irrefragable, deracination.
If only there were more books like this.  Sep 18, 2007
A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
If this book is what comes from getting kicked out of a good British public school, one can only wish fewer writers made it through. Not that Leigh Fermor needed more education, if it is, as they say, what is left when what you learned has been forgotten. In 1933, getting caught in flagrante--holding hands with a greengrocer's daughter--proved too much for the last school that accepted the challenge of the eccentric Leigh Fermor. He took a hike, walking from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, along the Rhine and the Danube. Forty years later and many adventures thereafter, he wrote it down for a comrade he had shared waratime night watches on Crete with. Even in the hands of a lesser spirit, a report from Europe on the brink of World War II would be of interest, but with Leigh Fermor, it is pure enchantment. He is gregarious, curious, terrifyingly learned, sensitive and wry. With the meager contents of his knapsack (and later less, after its theft) and four pounds per month, he mixes with barge hands, toothless prostitutes, well-brought up girls, and genteel widows. He has Shakespeare's gift for getting familiar words to show off hidden talents. His description of a night in Munich's Hofbrau house has Mozart in the speed and lightness with which he gets opposing moods to minuet. Leigh Fermor takes us from room to room and brew to brew of the beer palace; from burghers "as wide as casks" to an S.A. chorus, from blond beer (a "cylindrical litre of Teutonic myth") in mugs with a monogram like a cannon's foundry-mark, to a "long Wagnerian chord" of dark beer. Strangling laughter follows the reader on a helpless reel through vulgarity, gluttony, joy and menace, to the sobering slap of the final phrase of British self-deprecation. Other writers took entire books to portray Germany in those years, Leigh Fermor does it in mere pages. And that is only midway through volume one, there is still volume two: Between the Woods and the Water
Europe in the 1930s  May 13, 2007
A friend told me to buy this book, and that if I did not like it, he would refund my money. I did not ask for the refund. One gets caught up in the trek through Europe, where the author visits places many of which I have visited myself, albeit many years later. I have experienced big-time nostalgia from reading this book.
Simply wonderful  Feb 13, 2007
Patrick Leigh Fermor's work is a joy to read. I brought it with me this past summer when I was living/traveling in the former Yugoslavia and I have as many fond memories of reading that book on long bus rides as some of the places I experienced. I ended up giving it away to a friend I had met as a present and I miss it dearly now and plan on purchasing it again when I have the funds. His description of the beer hall in Munich is my favorite part.
Having read numerous works of Kaplan and Rebecca West, I feel that Fermor is the best in the league, at least with this series. Speaking of which, I read them out of order so it is not entirely necessary to read Time of Gifts first. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Fermor finishes the third book before he passes, though I cannot find any news of it. Does anyone know?

I highly recommend this work.

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