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Words of Mercury Hardcover – 13 Oct 2003
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Inspirational, insatiable, worldly and utterly divine, these works will leave us all thirsting for more (The Good Book Guide)
Words of Mercury is an admirable palliative for those who can stand the strain no longer. A selection of Leigh Fermor's writings, it serves three purposes to good effect: it contains enough unfamiliar material to satisfy old hands, it will remind the forgetful or the unconverted just how good a writer he is, and it should serve as the perfect introduction to novice readers ... An introduction to a writer whose mastery of English prose has only been matched, in my lifetime, by Evelyn Waugh and Hugh Trevor-Roper, this could hardly be better ... the gems in the collection are pieces not previously available in book form (Jeremy Lewis, LITERARY REVIEW)
collection of outstanding writings ... an overview of a magnificent career (The Good Book Guide)
What is charm? In Leigh Fermor's case it is an infinite curiosity about other people. He treats Bulgarian peasants and English dukes exactly alike ... Paddy Leigh Fermor has lived one of the great picaresque lives on the 20th century. Yet his achievement is to be what he is - even more than what he has done. This collection beautifully illustrates both ... Paddy draws the reader, like his huge acquaintance, into instant intimacy. Paddy Leigh Fermor - war hero, linguist, adventurer - is at heart a great storyteller (Max Hastings, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
There is a pleasure to be had on every page ... Here is a writer who can find something fascinating in the dullest characters and the most drab towns. He is a master stylist, too, revelling in the possibilities of language, striving always to be exact. Few travel writers can create atmosphere quite as thickly, but then few have such extraordinary anecdotes to tell ... [the anthology] serves as a reminder that Leigh Fermor is one of the greatest travel writers of all time (Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times)
The perfect anthology should turn us into gluttons and should also include unexpected delicacies. This books fulfils both requirements but also a third, more difficult one: it present a complete portrait of the author. The compiler, Artemis Cooper, writes an introduction which is a model of informative brevity, but also succeeds in capturing the essence of Patrick Leigh Fermor - the man as well as the literary oeuvre ... Leigh Fermor is a generous writer. There is not a dull character in the vast gallery in these pages where barons, bandits and beggars abound, where scholars and poets are colourful and ladies are beautiful (Santiago Tamarón, The Spectator)
Praise for PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR:
'The finest travel writer of his generation'
'The greatest of living travel writers' Jan Morris
Patrick Leigh Fermor is an exquisite among travel writers (Sunday Telegraph)
He makes exotic and entertaining friends wherever he goes, has read everything, been everywhere and writes like a dream (The Times)
Wonderful collection of extracts from a lifetime's writings (Times Literary Supplement)
[Leigh Fermor's] 'extraordinary character and combination of intelligence and compassion' (Times Literary Supplement)
A beguiling combination of wisdom and wildness, maturity and freshness (Times Literary Supplement)
Leigh Fermor ... is the best sort of British traveller ... He combines the resourcefulness and daring of Odysseus with the learning, culture and glamour of a latter-day Byron (Times Literary Supplement)
A collection of extraordinary anecdotes that are full of atmosphere and incidents, which reveal Leigh Fermor to be a congenial, cultured traveller of the highest order (Global)
His infectious enthusiasm, insatiable curiosity and open approach make the book a pleasure to read. Fermor is a master stylist who conveys delight readily and insight easily, making him the leading exponent of the travelwriting genre. (Global)
Vivid recollections of a way of life which vanished with that war [Second World War] (The Independent)
His gift is that he sees everything (The Independent)
That Leigh Fermor writes beautifully can be taken for granted. (The Independent)
His writing seeks to shine a fierce light on the places and peoples he visits (The Independent)
He became embedded in the societies that he writes about with such captivating panache (The Independent)
Leigh Fermor's work is that of a heartfelt wanderer truly involved in mankind (Geographical Magazine)
Keen judgement, a fine eye for detail and a truly prodigious memory (Geographical Magazine)
A collection of the most delightful and evocative pieces from books, journalism and letters by Patrick Leigh FermorSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
I did wonder about buying this volume as, almost inevitably, I have all of his major published works on my bookshelf. But even when reading excerpts from classics like 'A time of Gifts' I felt I was getting acquainted with the people and places for the very first time.
But there are lots of unpublished gems here - or at least pieces that have been published in obscure and sometimes defunct publications.
The book is based on sections: travel; Greece; people; books as well as a section called 'flotsam' that includes a lovely piece on gluttony and a marvelous letter to Diana Cooper.
Paddy is as remarkable as ever. If I've not given this five stars it is only because it reminds me (so forcibly) that we are still awaiting the final installment of the trilogy covering the walk from Holland to Constantinople. But, anyhow, while we're all waiting the 'Words of Mercury' will simply encourage us to re-read the back catalogue. And who knows; when we've finished, perhaps the new volume will be ready!
I really can't believe that anyone reading this review will not have read Paddy's work before. But if you haven't, my goodness, your in for the literary treat of a lifetime!
Bits from 'the Traveller's tree'; articles from the Spectator; biographical bits, book reviews, and even a section called, simply, 'flotsam'. It is all most enjoyable, and his way of writing gives me jolts of pleasure; it is the way the words fit together, calling up vistas, smells, unseen mysteries and long-gone times.
I am not quite sure why everyone alweays calls Leigh Fermor a travel writer. Sure, he travels a lot; but surely, he is a people writer first of all. And a history writer, a myth writer, a place-and-atmosphere writer; a wonderful writer. Five stars, even if some of the reviews are too erudite for me. A trove of treasure, this one. I recommend it to your attention, and pleasure.
Sir Paddy Leigh Fermor was a decorated war hero, secret agent, adventurer and traveller - but most of all, he was one of the finest writers of his generation. His prose has seldom been bettered and my reading of his books often has me racing to my English dictionary - my Greek dictionary, too! - for clarification.
In this well put-together anthology, my favourite is the Greek section, especially the `Supper in the Sky' chapter from `Mani'. It's almost possible to smell the roast lamb as it's served up in the tower, sixty feet above ground level and the imagined thoughts of the shipboard passengers are a delight. Until now, I was unaware that Sir Paddy had written an account of the `Ill met by Moonlight' episode in wartime Crete; one wonders what precisely would have happened to General Müller (the original target for abduction, instead of General Kreipe) due to the extreme brutality meted out to the Cretans by the German forces under his command - nothing good, I fear!
Artemis Cooper has done a very fine job in cobbling these extracts together. I understand that she and Anthony Beevor are currently working on Sir Paddy's biography, for publication later this year; as far as I'm concerned, it can't come soon enough.
"What Gable ?"
"We'll frieze in this gutta!"
"Do you ....caryatid ?"
"Mmm ! But don't telamon !"
I do not suppose Paddy ever descended from Parnassus and deigned to play a mundane game of "Scrabble", but I should not have liked to find myself in competition with him playing parlour games involving words. Yet I think the price of this paperback is warranted by that piece of trivia alone !
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Most recent customer reviews
He writes poetic prose which is a delight to read.