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A Winter in Arabia: A Journey Through Yemen (Freya Stark Collection) Paperback – 24 Mar 2010
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'A treasure of rare distinction among travel books.' --The New York Times Book Review
'Here, for once in a very long while, is a book upon which the miser of superlatives may pour out his hoard of praise ... To read such a book ... is to be proud and thankful. For here is a lovely charity and calm courage, vivid gaiety, the strong peace of truth and understanding; and quietness.' --The Times Literary Supplement
'Her writing has wit and vivacity and no little beauty; I found the whole book enthralling.' --Christian Science Monitor
About the Author
Freya Stark (1893-1993), 'the poet of travel', was the doyenne of Middle East travel writers and one of the most courageous and adventurous women travellers in history. She travelled extensively through Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Southern Arabia, where she became the first western woman to travel through the Hadhramaut. Usually solo, she ventured to places few Europeans had ever been. Her travels earned her the Founder's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and she was created a Dame in 1975. She received huge public acclaim and her many, now classic, books include Traveller's Prelude, The Valleys of the Assassins, Ionia, The Southern Gates of Arabia, Alexander's Path, Dust in the Lion's Paw and East is West. 'She has written the best travel books of her generation and her name will survive as an artist in prose.' - The Observer
Top customer reviews
However, a plea to the publishers of the modern paperback editions of her works: please replace the scaled down pen-and-ink sketch maps, almost illegible, with modern high definition maps and please, provide a glossary explaining how the many names should be pronounced!
What I liked: Beautiful writing. The story recounts Stark's travel through Yemen in the 1930s, but was actually written years later and first published in the early 1970s. The descriptions are so vivid that they make one feel that he/she could actually be going along the journey with Stark. The portrait of Stark that emerges is one of a true lady, but also a true adventurer.
What I didn't like: The books contains many citations from various historical figures and in various languages. If one does not speak all of these languages (and I do not), it is impossible to understand the emphasis given by the citations. I therefore looked for the English translation of every citation; it would be nice if a future edition were to provide the translations. I am providing below the translations that I found or did on my own.
Recommended for: travel addicts, history buffs.
Über stock und über steine, pferdchen brich dir nicht die beine (page 19)
Over the sticks and stones, but don't break your bones
Tot congesta manu praeruptis oppida saxis (29)
Steep rocks piled up so many towns (Virgil's Georgics)
Greift nur hinein ins volle Menschenleben! Ein jeder lebt's, nicht vielen ist's bekannt, Und wo ihr's packt da ist's interessant (33)
The whole parade of life that people live! Plunge in and take it as it is, and you can offer something interesting and new. (Faust, by Goethe)
Che fan quit tante pellegrine spade? (38)
Why are the swords of strangers in our land? (Petrarch, Canzoniere)
Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum collegissieuvat (55)
Some like to collect Olympic dust on their chariots (Horace, Odes, Book 1)
J'avouerai que j'ai eu l'hardiesse de laisser aux personnages les asperites de leur caracteres. (62)
I will avow that I have been bold enough to leave my personages in possession of the natural roughtness of their various characters. (Stendahl, The Chartreuse of Parma)
Il ne s'emporte jamais, ne prononce pas de paroles injurieuses, est incapable de lacheté ou d'avarice, ne frappe aucun subordonné, ne repousse aucun quémandeur, et ne s'est pas une seule fois révolté contre Allah. (70)
He never loses his temper, he never utters abusive language, he is incapable of cowardice or greed, he does not reject any beggar, and he has not rebelled once against Allah.
Il lui était reconnaissant d'etre aimable et de laisser trainer après elle un parfum d'amour (75)
His heart went out towards her for her sweetness and the amorous atmosphere that floated round her. (The Wicker Work Woman, Anatole France - Translation M.P. Willocks, 1922)
Clientum longa negotia? (77)
Of clients court?
Qu'est-ce qu'une femme auprés d'un papyrus Alexandrin? (102)
What is a woman in comparison with an Alexandrian papyrus? (The Queen Pedauque, Anatole France, Chapter 8)
Labuntur anni nec pietas moram rugis et instantae senectae adferet indomitaeque morti (105)
The years go by, and piety will not delay the wrinkles, and old age and death, the unsubdued (Horace, Odes, Book II, XIV)
Partout, dans la valléè bien ouverte, la jeunesse timide et chartmante de l'année frissonnait sur la terre antique (110) Everywhere in this open valley, the sweet, trembling youth of the year shivered along the surface of the ancient earth. (The Wicker Work Woman, Anatole France- Translation M.P. Willocks, 1922)
Il n'a pas l'intelligence assez large pour concevoir que l'intéret n'est pas seul à mener le monde (114)
He is not intelligent enough to imagine that the interest is not only that of guiding the world. (my translation)
Plaisirs d'une race pauvre, économe, eternellement jeune . . . trouvant son bien en elle-meme et dans le dons que les Dieux lui ont faits (129)
Pleasures of a poor race, thrifty, eternally young . . . finding its well-being within itself and in the gifts that the Gods have given it (my translation with help of Google) (Ernest Renan, 1823-1892, a French expert of Middle East ancient languages and civilizations, philosopher and writer, devoted to his native province of Brittany).
Quod superest, ubi pulsam hiemem sol aureus egit
sub terras caelumque aestiva luce reclusit,
illae continuo saltus silvasque peragrant
purpureosque metunt flores et flumina libant
summa leves (181)
As for the rest, when the golden sun has driven winter
under the earth, and unlocked the heavens with summer light,
from the first they wander through glades and forests,
grazing the bright flowers, and sipping the surface of the streams. (Georgics, Book IV, Beekeeping)
La soledad seguiendo, Rendido a mi fortuna, Me voy por los caminos que se ofrecen (250)
Solitude following, My fortune surrendered, I'm on the road offered (my translation with help of Google) (Garcilasso de La Vega, 1539-1616, Spanish poet and soldier)
Qui, dentro ad una gabbia, Fere selvaggie e mansueto gregge, S'annidan si che sempre il miglior geme (257)
Now in a single cage, Wild beasts and gentle flocks together rest, So that the better are condemned to groan (Petrarch)
Sed nox atra caput tristi circumvolat umbra (287)
But round his head there hovers a shadow dark as night (Aeneid)
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