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The Unbroken Record,
This review is from: The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos (Hardcover)
This is the third installment of Fermor's voyage across Europe. "The spectacular success of the first two volumes drastically increased public expectation of the third" avow Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper in their Introduction to this book. I cannot say in all honesty that "The Broken Road" read in isolation is the best introduction to PLF, but for those already familiar with his work this book will not disappoint them.
In a way it is two books in one : the termination of his long journey to Constantinople and extensive extracts from "the Green Diary" written up at the time he was only twenty. This covers his peregrinations over the monastic state of Mount Athos, after he left Istanbul. It is therefore much simpler in style with an immediacy that he certainly tried hard to recapture in his later writing - but without the painstakingly rewritten Byzantine prose !
Perhaps one of the reasons Paddy never quite managed to get round to editing his own material for publication was that in this latter part of the journey he dissembled less and gave a more transparent picture of his own character. When he suffers from the blues trudging the Wallachian plain between Tirnovo and Rustchuk he disarmingly admits it, except that his language is different. Today some might say that he exemplifies a mild case of bi-polar disorder - only "disorder" is already too strong and too damning a word to apply to an individual so incredibly sociable and sensitive. I would rather take it as an indication that he was thoroughly normal and that his amazing ability to circumvent his low threshold of boredom could not work in every extreme circumstance !
Be that as it may this book is a pearl for the initiated, not to be by-passed on any account. Moreover, I do not believe the mystique behind the man is in any way compromised - he remains a giant of humanity whose actual seeds of greatness are hard to discern.