Armenia, Nicolas Bouvier and Paddy

This post is dedicated to Elizabeth who will enjoy listening to the French. My on-off hiatus on the blog continues due to personal circumstances but I had to write this short update before I depart to walk across Armenia. I was inspired to travel there by reading Nicolas Bouvier’s wonderful book, The Way of the World. Paddy buffs will know that he wrote the introduction to the English version.

Bouvier’s work describes his journey with his artist friend Thierry Vernet in a Fiat Topolino (like a 2CV)  from Geneva to Afghanistan in the 1953-54. It is a journey that would be impossible today. The book is beautifully written and such fun to read. He spent a lot of time writing about the Armenian community in north-western Iran which got me thinking about going to Armenia, and here I am going to Armenia.

I always like to make some spurious link to weave a bit of a yarn, and here I have it. Bouvier writes book including Armenians; Paddy writes introduction to said book; I travel to Armenia; and blog corespondent Mark Opstad (a long time ago) sends me a link to a French TV programme that includes Bouvier and Paddy. The latter speaking wonderful French but as ever struggling with technology; this time the microphone. Paddy suddenly appears around 29:10 (maybe he got stuck into the bar in the green room?) and proceeds to tell his story, but struggles to keep the microphone near his mouth. Note the “third hand” at 34:38 trying to keep it in the right position. At 47:00 Paddy inevitably ends up singing a Greek song.

Enjoy the video. As ever there is much more to come on the blog and I thank all of you who have got in touch with me. I just don’t have the time to keep up at the moment, but each and every one will receive a reply in due course.

Nicolas BOUVIER, Jacques LACARRIERE, Michel LE BRIS, Patrick LEIGH-FERMOR from Etonnants Voyageurs on Vimeo.


12 thoughts on “Armenia, Nicolas Bouvier and Paddy

  1. Pingback: Nicolas Bouvier – Travels in the Aran Isles, Xian and places in between | Patrick Leigh Fermor

  2. David

    Put onto PLF having heard the Humphreys slot on R4 and got myself a copy of Time of Gifts just in time for my holiday reading which I’ve just finished here overlooking the bay of Naples from Sorrento. What a book and what a man and delightful to see him speaking in French about the journey and the generosity of people to a “poor student”. Will definitely be obtaining other titles.

  3. Pingback: Paddy on Radio France-Culture | Patrick Leigh Fermor

  4. Christos Paganakis

    Shame on you Tom , ” A Greek Song ” ???
    That is the first verse of the Cretan ” National Anthem ” Pote tha Kanei Xasteria ” = When will the clear weather come ? ” , one of Paddy’s wartime souvenirs .
    if you look on You-tube entering that in the ” Hellish ” form I posted , and add the name of the great singer Nikos Xylouris ( son of the Anogia Kapetanos who was one of PLFs brothers-in-arms ) you will get several stirring renditions to listen too .

    My missis calls it ” the Psycopath’s song ” , and with reason , for it goes on ( in summary )

    ” and when will it be February , so I can take up my rifle , and my beautiful cartridge pouch , and go down to Omalos ( plain at the top of the Samaria Gorge ) , take the road of Moussouris ( famed fighter of Turks ) , to make mothers without sons , wives without husbands , and crying babies , who will wail without their mummies ,
    when ( oh when ) will the clear weather come again ? ”

    You have to listen to it to ” get ” it , it is a marching song sung as a ” round ” to lift laden war parties up stony mulepaths , and as such things usually are , not lyrics that one would normally use in polite society , but this ditty is now hallowed by history and happily roared out by all Cretans when roused , including the children , womenfolk , the elderly , the educated , and I have seen the priests singing it too .
    ( Powerful thing , the Orthodox faith , not like the C-of-E at all ! )
    Anthony Quinn ( Hollywood’s stock ethnic character ) can be seen singing it as he leads the miners off to work in the film ” Zorba the Greek ” ( although that is not in the book by Kazantzakis )

    These Cretan songs are called ” Rizitika ” which comes from the word for Roots = Rizes .
    and most are from the years of the Turkish Occupation in Crete .
    Loads on You-Tube ,
    search for PLF’s favourite ” Nikodem ” , and another by Xylouris paddy doubtless would have heard ” Se Psilo Vouno ” = on the high mountain , ( sits an eagle , its feathers stiff with ice , when will the sun come again , and set it free to fly ? )

    Nikos Xylouris died young , but his many relations are mostly musical ( You-Tube ” Psarandonis ” his brother , very eclectic style ) and his widow , Ourania (= Sky ) keeps the best Greek traditional music shop in Athens , in the arcade opposite the National Libriary on Panepistimiou in Athens – Well worth a visit if you like Greek , Balkan and Levantine music !

      1. Christos Paganakis

        ( Oh Tom , I was only pulling your leg , for not knowing it ! )
        ;– )

        Have a super time in Armenia , I’m jealous !

  5. John Edward Youde

    Brilliant to see Paddy he looks so young, I wonder what age he was then? Did not understand what they were saying as I am not into the French Language, but never-the-less it was enjoyable.
    John Youde

  6. JulianA

    My French isn’t up to following the dialogue closely but it’s wonderful to see Paddy on video! How many languages was he comfortable with I wonder?

    I always enjoy reading new posts here: thank you.

    Have a safe and enjoyable trip and we’ll hope to hear about it!

    Very best wishes



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