An Interwar Odyssey

In 2011, Patrick Leigh Fermor became Patrick Leigh Former, and hundreds of thousands of devotees were doubly bereft.  The first loss was the man himself, at 96 an antique in his own right, one of the last links to what feels increasingly like an antediluvian Europe, in which advanced civilization could coexist with medieval color and high adventure.  But perhaps even more than the man himself, who after all had led a long and charmed life, we rued the absence of The Book—the anciently promised concluding volume of what he had always envisaged as a trilogy telling of his traipse from Holland to Constantinople just before World War II.

We had more or less given up hope that there would ever be a companion piece to A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between the Woods and the Water (1986).  We knew that PLF’s powers were waning, even though it had been bruited breathlessly that he was teaching himself to type.  As the years passed, it seemed increasingly unlikely that the notoriously painstaking stylist would ever be energetic or satisfied enough to release a definitive text.  Yet there was always the faintest of faint hopes that just possibly, despite all odds, he might manage to muster one more flash of genius and transport his youthful self finally to his fabled destination.  With the news of his death, it seemed we would always be stuck at the Iron Gates on the Danube, locked out...

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