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The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos Hardcover – 12 Sep 2013
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Nobody could do the job better than the book's editors. Colin Thubron is a travel writer of Leigh Fermor's calibre, Artemis Cooper is his masterly biographer . . . It contains wonderful passages of purest Leigh Fermor . . . Time and again he gives us vivid glimpses of encounters along the way - priests and peasants, the squalors of the back country, high life in Bucharest - and this virtuoso display is embedded as always in his astonishing range of learning . . . full of fun, kindness, easy learning, sophistication and innocence . . . a gently fitting conclusion to his tumultuous masterpiece (Jan Morris Mail on Sunday)
This is a major work. It confirms that Leigh Fermor was, along with Robert Byron, the greatest travel writer of his generation, and this final volume assures the place of the trilogy as one of the masterpieces of the genre, indeed one of the masterworks of post-war English non-fiction (William Dalrymple Guardian)
Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper have put this book to bed with skill and sensitivity . . . Friends and fans, acolytes, devotees and disciples can all rest easy. It was worth the wait (Justin Marozzi Spectator)
The editors have done a fine job (Literary Review)
It is magnificent. Cooper and Thubron have done an immense service in bringing the book to publication, for it unmistakably stands comparison with its remarkable siblings. The prose has the glorious turbulence and boil of the first two books, and the youthful magic of his 'dream-odyssey' is still potent (Robert MacFarlane, The Times)
A fitting conclusion to his masterpiece . . . This book is momentous (Mail on Sunday)
The pages are filled with brilliant evocations of his life on the road, none richer than the time he spent in a Romanian broth . . . It is a fitting epilogue to 20th-century travel-writing and essential reading for devotees of Sir Patrick's other works (The Economist)
I set off along The Broken Road laden with expectations that I would have to make allowances. Yet almost from the off, I realised that I would have no use for these. Here was a wealth of descriptions that only Leigh Fermor could have conjured up . . . In a stroke of brilliance, Thubron and Cooper have included the separate diary that Leigh Fermor kept of the month he spent exploring Mount Athos in Greece immediately after leaving Istanbul. So, the Athos diary, aglow with rich experience, finally brings the journey to its rightful end in the spiritual heart of the country that was to prove, though the young author did not yet know it, Leigh Fermor's "real love and destination" (New Statesman)
This is a picaresque essay, a virtuoso tapestry of anecdote in the author's best tradition (Country Life)
The first two volumes were a joy to read, not least for Leigh Fermor's ability to recapture in later life the intense excitement of being a young man lighting out. The latest book offers similar joys . . . Also evident are another of the joys of the earlier books - the pyrotechnics of his writing. Exuberance is expressed in heightened suggestions . . . it captures the joy of the open road, the fresh view he gives of Europe as it began to show the stresses that led to world war, and the glimpses of a long-lost life and innocence (Observer)
The long-awaited final volume of the trilogy by Patrick Leigh Fermor - hailed as the greatest travel writer of his generation.See all Product description
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But of course having been compiled by his biographer and literary executor from the notes he left behind, it's not exactly what PLF would have written had he finished it himself. I was particularly disappointed by whole sections that PLF couldn't remember, and by the inclusion of quite a lot of material about what happened to Romania and Bulgaria after the impending war and from some of PLF's subsequent visits - which all feels rather like padding and an unnecessary diversion.
In my view it doesn't work as a stand-alone piece of literature, so if you haven't read the first two volumes don't start here. If you have, then it completes the journey, and the trilogy.
This book documents, in a slightly unsatisfactory manner, the final missing piece from what was, by any measure, an extraordinary life.
One senses the excitement of the contrasting cities of architectural elegance or aged and strange curiosities, the challenge of untamed plains and glorious mountains, the beauty of a Europe pre-WW2, pre-communist restrictions, then one feels the depression of storms and soggy valleys, challenging mountain passes and a billet in a peasant's hovel. The chance encounter of Paddy, Greek fishermen and Bulgarian shepherds and the ensuing party and dancing in a vast cave is a classic. This is Europe but one few have experienced, and although I could say happily history has left a Rumania and Bulgaria in part still recognisable from PLF's talented description it is in reality a world which was thought vanished and which lives again through these pages.
The book is in two distinct parts, the larger part drawn PLF's memories, although he had been reunited with his Green Diary and he had already written "A Youthful Journey", the building blocks for The Broken Road, they were never collated together by the author or by his editors. The raison d'ȇtre for the walk to reach Constantinople (never Istanbul) from the Hook of Holland was achieved but curiously Paddy's thoughts on reaching his goal were scarcely recorded. The epilogue, so to speak, is a word for word inclusion of a diary written as he walked between monasteries on Mount Athos in the depths of winter. This last masterpiece has less descriptive prose, undoubtedly that would have been achieved had Paddy had the strength to complete the work to his satisfaction; as a woman I would have loved more intricate detail on the frescoes and architecture of the monasteries; but given this diary was never intended for publication the chapter is a gem.
The third volume is an absolute delight from beginning to end. PLF's voice (and what a voice) comes across loud and clear. The final chapters on Mount Athos are worth the price of entry alone. Witty, erudite, vivacious and, above all, a fitting last testament to a great writer who will be sorely missed.
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