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We shall not see his like again

12/06/2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor

Solvitur ambulando: the peripatetic approach to problem solving; a notion usually attributed to St Augustine, but one to which Patrick Leigh Fermor (who died in England on 10 June) retained a lifelong devotion expressed in inimitable style.  The young Patrick was expelled from school, where he had been marked out by his house-master as ‘a dangerous combination of sophistication and recklessness’.  ‘Sophistication’ doubtless referring to his already considerable powers of attraction as well as his restless intellect, and ‘recklessness’ to his sense of mischief, capacity for self-reliance and courage: these would probably be his own gloss upon the terms, and his life bears that out. Aged just 18, he decided to go for a walk. From the Hook of Holland to Istanbul. Characteristically, he made it; even better, he wrote about it. And what writing! A man of legendary courage, voracious curiosity, dazzling erudition and extraordinary talent for languages, Patrick Leigh Fermor was one of the most interesting and attractive personalities 20th century England produced. He loved life and possessed to an unusual degree the capacity to live it to the full, intensely engaged by all he saw on his travels and painting vivid word pictures with uniquely poetic clarity. He was not so much a travel writer, more a traveller who wrote – beautifully.

Better writers than I have paid him fitting tribute and Tom Sawford’s marvellous blog will tell you so much more than I possibly could. All you need to know, that is, before you turn – or return – to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s true legacy, his books.

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