Category Archives: Paddy's Writing

In the Trail of Odysseus

I shall soon be making a working visit to Odessa in the Ukraine. I’m hoping to have a few hours to walk around and make my own impressions of the city apart from the usual swift drive to the hotel and office, interspersed with a dinner in “one of the best restaurants in town”. This made me think of a post that we put up in October 2010 which covered Paddy’s introduction to a wonderful book, In the Trail of Odysseus which is the story of Yiankos Danielopoulis a Black Sea Greek. There is just one copy left on Amazon UK. If you are fascinated by this part of the world and tales of people who come through trial after trial, you will want to snap it up. Over to the old post …..

I think this is a rare treat, even for those of us who have read much of Paddy’s work. This introduction to In the Trail of Odysseus by Marianna Koromila is full of longing for the world at the edge of the Black Sea that he discovered in 1934 and which so soon was to disappear forever.

“The whole region seemed an enormous and mysterious antechamber to the whole Mediterranean, unbelievably remote and enigmatic, and ever so soon in danger of fading.”

It is the story of Yiankos Danielopoulis who died in 1987 at the age of 88. As a Black Sea Greek living through the 20th century his life was uprooted time after time, until at last he was able to settle in Mount Hymettos in mainland Greece in the 1950’s.

I have been sent some scanned copies of Paddy’s introduction, by blog corespondent James, to the English translation to the book which I hope you will enjoy and inspire you to purchase the last few copies of the book from Amazon!

To help you further, here is a short synopsis by John Colvin Body which appears to have been published in the Daily Telegraph in 1994.

“In the Trail of Odysseus by Marianna Koromila tr by Nigel Clive Michael Russell, L14.95 this modern-day “Odysseus” is Yiankos Danielopoulos, one of 12 Thracian children born in Vasiliko, a whitewashed Greek village of the Ottoman Empire in 1899, and dying in Attica 88 years later. His life has been compiled by Marianna Koromila from a privately printed family record that she acquired from his daughter. It reflects the turmoil of that region in the 20th century. Born under the Empire, Yiankos lived in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Greece, surviving two nationalities, seven homes and 13 professions, all imposed by “the gale of the world”. Bulgarian violence, Bolshevik revolution, civil war and Communist take-over were his Eumenides. As a child, he “listened to the rattle of the pebbles as they were washed up by the waves”; saw woods, vineyards, wheat fields and boats unloading below his window on return from fishing. The Thracian traders and shipowners, with relations in all the Black Sea ports, he described as the seagulls which followed the fish. In winter, wolves descended from the mountains, threatening the village. “Union is strength,” said Yiankos’s father when the horses drove them off.

The Great Powers then changed lines on maps. Vasiliko came under the Bulgars, and life became untenable. Yiankos and his brothers moved to Constanza in Romania and opened a grocer’s shop. An admiral’s wife fell in love with one of the brothers. The shop received the navy’s warrant. Funds accumulated. Bulgaria then invaded and the family fled to Galatz (also in Romania) with their assets – 50 cases of macaroni. Yiankos dealt profitably in foreign exchange; money was made. But Galatz became an impossible place, what with bombing and Cossacks shooting holes in wine-cases and drowning in the alcoholic flood. The Danielopouloses escaped to Russia, packed like sardines in a stinking refugee train. Life in their new Russian home, Berdiansk, was lucrative until the Bolshevik and Anarchist massacres began, when the family escaped to Novorosisk in 1917, where the Russian fleet had scuttled. They steered clear of politics, which preserved them, but chaos came. The family escaped by tug back to Constanza, having profitably run cafe, shop and currency exchange in the middle of a revolution. Back in Romania, they enjoyed “party-time” – the annees folles of the 1920s – until the Crash of 1929. Thanks to family unity, they picked themselves up again, flourishing even during the German occupation of 1940.

But later, in 1950, when Soviet theft and odious oppression became intolerable, Yiankos, his wife and daughters left for Greece. They arrived in Mount Hymettos penniless, but went on to farm pistachio, orange, lemon and tangerine trees, cows, hens and vegetables. Yiankos had survived once more. Nigel Clive’s sparkling translation of Koromilos’s book is richly enhanced by Patrick Leigh Fermor’s introduction to that legendary world of the day-before-yesterday.”

 

Buy In the Trail of Odysseus at Amazon.

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Related article:

The mystery of The Black Sea Cave

 

 

Repeat – Kennt ihr das Land in deutschen Gauen

I guess that many of us enjoy the chapter in A Time of Gifts when the eighteen year old Paddy spent two nights in Stuttgart with two very pretty nineteen year old German girls, Lise and Annie. It was Epiphany, 6th January 1934, and they went to a party where Paddy had to pretend to be Mr Brown, a family friend. He particularly enjoyed singing a song about the Neckar Valley and Swabia. Paddy could not remember all the words but his stunning memory recalled most of them (page 66).

As we approach that time of year I thought we ought to share this delightful song. It is one of my favourite posts, so here it is again!

Even better James has found it on You Tube 🙂

Here is a link to the music sung by a German choir. The words are below so that you too can sing along! Let’s hear it now, one two three ….

  1. Kennt ihr das Land in deutschen Gauen,
    Das schönste dort am Neckarstrand?
    Die grünen Rebenhügel schauen
    Ins Tal von hoher Felsenwand.

Refrain:
Es ist das Land, das mich gebar,
Wo meiner Väter Wiege stand,
Drum sing’ ich heut’ und immerdar:
Das schöne Schwaben ist mein Heimatland!

2. Kennt ihr das Land in deutschen Gauen,
Mit Wald und Flur so reich bekränzt,
Wo auf den weiten, reichen Auen
Im Sonnenschein die Ähre glänzt?
Es ist das Land, . . . . .

3. Kennt ihr das Land in deutschen Gauen,
Wo Tann’ und Efeu immer grün,
Wo starke Männer, edle Frauen
In deutscher Kraft und Sitte blühn?
Es ist das Land, . . . . .4. Kennt ihr das Land im deutschen Süden,
So oft bewährt in Kampf und Streit,
Dem zwischen seiner Wälder Frieden
So frisch die deutsche Kraft gedeiht?Ja, wackre Deutsche laßt uns sein!
Drauf reichet euch die deutsche Hand;
Denn Schwabenland ist’s nicht allein:
Das ganze Deutschland ist mein Heimatland!

Travellers’ Century: Patrick Leigh Fermor on YouTube


Posting the Stanford awards notice the other day, made me think again about Benedict Allen’s profile of Paddy on the Travellers’ Century series which is available on You Tube.

Whilst relaxing with your loved ones over the festive period, or at any other time, why not take an hour out to watch this lovely little documentary? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to introduce the family to this mysterious Patrick Leigh Fermor. A good entry point for the uninitiated.

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Rhineland Christmas

The restored Liebefrauenkirche in Koblenz

This has been posted once before on the blog, but if you need a Christmas Day digital fix, here is something  from A Time of Gifts.

Paddy spent Christmas, 1933, in Coblenz/Koblenz a German town on the Rhine. From A Time Of Gifts:

Coblenz is on a slant. Every street tilted and I was always looking across towers and chimney-pots and down on the two corridors of mountain that conducted the streams to their meeting. It was a buoyant place under a clear sky, everything in the air whispered that the plains were far behind and the sunlight sent a flicker and a flash of reflections glancing up from the snow; and two more invisible lines had been crossed and important ones: the accent had changed and wine cellars had taken the place of beer-halls. Instead of those grey mastodontic mug, wine-glasses glittered on the oak. (It was under a vista of old casks in a Weinstube that I settled with my diary till bedtime.) The plain bowls of these wine-glasses were poised on slender glass stalks, or on diminishing pagodas of little globes, and both kinds of stem were coloured: a deep green for Mosel and, for Rhenish, a brown smoky gold that was almost amber. When horny hands lifted them, each flashed forth its coloured message in the lamplight. It is impossible, drinking by the glass in those charmingly named inns and wine-cellars, not to drink too much. Deceptively and treacherously, those innocent-looking goblets hold nearly half a bottle and simply by sipping one could explore the two great rivers below and the Danube and all Swabia, and Franconia too by proxy, and the vales of Imhof and the faraway slopes of Würzburg journeying in time from year to year, with draughts as cool as a deep well, limpidly varying from dark gold to pale silver and smelling of glades and meadows and flowers. Gothic inscriptions still flaunted across the walls, but they were harmless here, and free of the gloom imposed by those boisterous and pace-forcing black-letter hortations in the beer-halls of the north. And the style was better: less emphatic, more lucid and laconic; and both consoling and profound in content; or so it seemed as the hours passed. Glaub, was wahr ist, enjoined a message across an antlered wall, Lieb was rar ist; Trink, was klar ist. [“Believe what is true; love what is rare; drink what is clear.”] I only realized as I stumbled to bed how pliantly I had obeyed.

It was the shortest day of the year and signs of the seasons were becoming hourly more marked. Every other person in the streets was heading for home with a tall and newly felled fir-sapling across his shoulder, and it was under a mesh of Christmas decorations that I was sucked into the Liebfrauenkirche next day. The romanesque nave was packed and an anthem of great choral splendour rose from the gothic choir stalls, while the cauliflowering incense followed the plainsong across the slopes of the sunbeams. A Dominican in horn-rimmed spectacles delivered a vigorous sermon. A number of Brownshirts — I’d forgotten all about them for the moment — was scattered among the congregation, with eyes lowered and their caps in their hands. They looked rather odd. The should have been out in the forest, dancing round Odin and Thor, or Loki, perhaps.

Paddy imaginatively and sensually explores local landscapes by drinking its wine. Notice too the glorious description of the Catholic church in Coblenz at Christmastime.  That beautiful old church, the Liebefrauenkirche, was virtually destroyed in the Second World War, but has since been restored.

Something newly discovered for Christmas – rarely seen painting of Paddy from Budapest

A portrait of Paddy done in Budapest in the 1960's

A portrait of Paddy done in Budapest in the 1960’s

I have been saving these images for some months now so that I could present them to you at Christmas; it is always good to have something new for Christmas!

Sent to me by a friend, the coat of arms is from the back of a chair that was in the von Berg house in Uri utca, Budapest when PLF stayed in 1934. It survived WW2, the Hungarian Revolution and Communism. There is a very detailed description of it in Between the Woods and the Water (pp 27, 29, 32 in the paperback edition). As we have written before:

Úri utca (Lord’s Street) is at the very heart of the Castle District and lining this ancient cobbled thoroughfare are the one-time palaces and townhouses of the old Hungarian nobility. Stop in front of number 15, a plain two-storey house, and you will be at the very core of Leigh Fermor’s Budapest. If the owner, Baroness Gloria von Berg is at home, you are likely to receive a warm welcome and a free tour of the very quarters in which PLF slept. It was her father, Baron Tibor von Berg who hosted him in 1934. From this hospitable house he explored Budapest in a way that few English travellers had achieved at that time.

The portrait is of Paddy done in Budapest during a visit he made there in the mid 1960s. It surfaced recently in the flat of an old friend of Paddy in Budapest, and has been seen before by very few people, and almost certainly its first appearance online. I hope that you enjoy it. How interesting that new items can emerge even after all these years.

The von Berg coat of arms from a chair at the house in Úri utca, Budapest

A coat of arms from a chair at the house of the von Berg’s in Úri utca, Budapest

Merry Christmas to you all, and thank you for your comments and support over this past year. We still average around 10,000 visits per month. I do encourage you to use the search facility (upper right of page); it is quite excellent. If you have something you wish to know about Paddy, tap it in and hopefully you will find something to interest and inform you from over 900 posts.

 

Joey Casey’s review of Further Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Following the recent podcast including Adam Sisman, I thought that you might like to read Joey Casey’s review of his second Paddy letters compilation. This was first published in an edition of the PLF Society newsletter, and I am grateful to Joey for letting me re-publish here.

Daphne Fielding once said that Patrick ‘Paddy’ Leigh Fermor ‘should be turned into pills so that you can take him when you feel low’ and for that reason alone Adam Sisman’s books of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s letters – Volumes 1 and 2 should grace every bedside table. The sheer ebullience of them may keep you awake but you will have good dreams! Paddy wrote to Sophie Moss, wife of Billy Moss his comrade in arms in Crete, in 1950: ‘Sackcloth and Ashes…could be the title of a published volume of my letters…as all my letters start with abject apologies for lateness in answering’. However, as Sisman rightly points out, the image of a ‘dashing’ Paddy suits much better than one in mourning garb’.

In Volume 2 ‘More Dashing’ the letters span from 1938 to 2010 and display more variety and nearly twice the number of correspondents as Volume 1. There are slightly fewer ‘laugh out loud’ moments than in the first book but more breadth of subject matter with interesting intimate glimpses into Paddy’s love life, working methods and the many ways he tries, but often fails, to ward off distraction: ’I wish I were a better concentrator: feel like a grasshopper harnessed to a plough’ he writes to his friend and comrade in arms in Crete Xan Fielding (1976).

Whether as a very young man or very old with tunnel vision, Paddy’s letters entertain with drawings, comic verse and occasional cringe-making puns. They are microcosms of his books but often, Sisman writes, easier to read, and less ‘worked over’ although in most cases carefully honed with a view perhaps to future publication. Even at his most desperate, when alone on a bare mountainside in 1944 wartime Crete, he still feels the need to write complete with illustrations to a friend, Annette Crean, as if on a holiday postcard ‘Of course life is just one big whisker as usual. It’s very cold and snowy and rather beautiful, Wish you were here.’

Sisman explains in his introduction that physically Paddy was constantly away from his friends, either travelling or in Greece, and letters were just the right length both to practise his writing skills and “engage with his correspondents”. Interwoven with amusing anecdotes, quotes, references, social happenings and book recommendations plus a cast of many characters (mostly titled) the letters often require the reader to dive for Sisman’s notes. For a gregarious Paddy though they were the next best thing to a good conversation over a glass of wine. The editor’s sterling research in tracking down the most obscure references from Paddy’s magpie mind is to be applauded; he writes to Joan Rayner, who would become his wife nearly twenty years later, in 1956 that a friend has ‘sent me a remarkable Personal Religion in Ancient Greece by a Dominican called Festugiere, which is my bed and meal-time reading. Very odd for a monk. Has anyone heard of him?’ Sisman has ..and gives date, chapter and verse in the notes!

Above all it is Paddy’s lyrical sensory descriptions that really sing such as those to his ‘lady pen pal’ Diana Cooper in 1955 while staying at the Grand Hotel Bassoul in Beirut ‘lying there on enormous high beds in cool dilapidated rooms, listening to the clatter of trams, the cries of vendors clanking brass objects and muezzin answering muezzin, a faint rank whiff of kebabs and spices drifting in through those mock crusading windows’ The armchair traveller is instantly transported to the Middle East. Religious processions were another favourite of Paddy’s; in another letter to Joan Rayner in 1950 he writes:-‘10,000 people burst into a furore of clapping and cheers as the enormous Mararena virgin came out ( every one murmuring ‘Mira la, Mira la ..look at her’) preceded by a hundred Roman soldiers in full armour and huge ostrich feather plumes playing slow marches on muffled drums etc…..boys putting on velvet and gold dalmatics and ruffs, all in candlelight under white baroque vaults – the closest one could get to the Funeral of Count Orgaz’. (nb note 6 this painting was by El Greco not Goya!).

In 1970 he waxes lyrical recomposing the landscape in painterly fashion from a trip to Turkey with Damaris Stewart, a close friend along with her husband Michael Stewart, British Ambassador to Greece, and later their daughter Olivia. ‘Give me an agora choked with capers and cow parsley every time, convolvulus twirling up the shafts of columns, stylite storks, an odeum full of frogs with a Yuruk (Turkish nomad) and a camel or two for scale in the middle distance..’.

Paddy seems slightly insecure in his early descriptions of the sexual mores in bohemian
and upper class circles. He and Joan had an open arrangement which he was happy to follow but was slightly anxious that she should not! ‘How lively London sounds, everybody’s changed places. It’s like Sir Roger de Coverley …whoops! Away again and all change. I wouldn’t mind a day or two of it now, as long as neither of us performed leading roles, I don’t think I could bear any change now’. In 1950 he wrote to her ‘you as a friend and a lover are almost (not quite) equally precious things.’

In Sisman’s Volume 1 Paddy’s letters were often all innocence smitten with love such as the ‘crush’ he had on Lyndall Birch in the late 1950s. This is now replaced in Volume 2 by more knowing but nevertheless passionate declarations to his lover Ricki Huston, John Huston’s wife, who gets four long letters in two months and we feel the urgency and passion of their affair: driving from Rome to Bologna and on through France in April 1961, he describes driving through a mountain storm from motorway to country road ‘soaring through the firmament like a destroying demon out of Dante, crackling sword cast aside and mackintosh wings a-draggle, a grounded Lucifer. ‘The exciting subterfuge in the relationship is mirrored when he writes that he is staying at Viscount de Noaille’s mansion in Paris ..’Mr Sponge has fallen on his feet again’ he quips later on when mentioning ‘cadged’ friends’ houses. Hushed vistas of Louis XV furniture, labyrinths of gilt and brocade magnificence…Very grand but a bit eerie as if spies and eunuchs were observing one’s every step from inside gigantic Ming vases and through giant portraits of Noailles after Noailles’.

In another letter to Ricki he declares ( 1961) ‘I do feel grateful to life this …setting all these treasures cascading so generously and gratuitously’ but she is not fooled and replies quoting him: ‘there’s been many and many a handful of multicoloured silk and a good few chunks of alabaster for after all aren’t you a poet and a loving man?’

When trying to console Diana Cooper one month after her husband Duff Cooper’s death in 1954 we sense Paddy’s rather naive perplexity as to how to react. He starts by trying to cadge a ticket to a ball in Rome and hopes she might come and join him ..travel and changes could help..or when in doubt there is always a ‘nursery’ solution ‘a giant nanny’. He then tries distraction with a tale of his Irish ‘scrape’ and finally finishes by sending her a rather mournful 16th century poem which would probably have made her burst into tears. Paddy then proceeded to lose all her condolence thank you letters. They remained firm friends.

We feel for Paddy’s publisher, the long suffering Jock Murray who had to make sense of the spidery maze of corrections presented late along with excuses and pleas for finance. He writes to Jock in 1992 ‘Oh for Chagford or Saint Wandrille ( a hotel and a monastery where he used to take refuge keeping all temptations at bay). I’ve started clearing all this stuff, written a hundred letters I had allowed to mount up and hoping Volume 111 will get forward a bit faster’ …It never did and was eventually published from Paddy’s notes posthumously.

It is at beautiful Kardamyli, the home that he and Joan had built in the Mani in Greece, where he spent most of the year from the mid sixties writing, swimming, reading and entertaining friends.

In 1962 he describes finding the perfect spot for their house to Joan. ‘The appearance and mood of the place is half Calypso’s cave, half orchard where Odysseus found his old father at work…this interpenetration of sea and rocks with olives, cypresses, sweet smelling shrubs; marine and georgic with that hectic sunset amphitheatre of precipices behind and the phantom Taygetus ( mountains) looming’.

The last third or so of Sisman’s book deals with correspondence largely arising from Paddy’s books plus the many introductions, addresses, reviews and obituaries he had to write for dear friends. These later years are also times for sorting out his affairs and paperwork. In a letter to Rudi Fischer, his advisor and mentor on all things Hungarian and Romanian he guiltily admits in 1987 to his use of the ‘Dichtung’ (poetic licence and sheer invention) in the chapter concerning a romantic fugue with Xenia in Between the Woods and the Water. He also tries to prepare his papers for Artemis Cooper, Diana Cooper’s granddaughter, to write his biography to appear posthumously. Anxious not to hurt or upset he suggests she might like to go through all his letters to Joan ‘I’ve put lines round any over gossipy or scandalous bits with OMIT written in the margin.’

I have only given a very small sample here from Paddy’s many letters in this Volume 2 (the first PLF book to be published by Bloomsbury rather than John Murray) but, since Sisman mentions that in all there are probably around ten thousand letters including those to Joan, perhaps we can expect Volumes 3 and 4? I hope so as they are such a joy to read.

Purchase More Dashing: Further Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Slightly Foxed Podcast – Dashing for the Post editor Adam Sisman

Adam Sisman

I do look forward to the emails I receive from Slightly Foxed, the specialist London-based publisher of fine reproduction books. They are always upbeat and inclusive. Their publications are varied but always popular. I have started to collect some of their children’s books for my grandchildren!

Earlier in 2019 they started a podcast which I highlighted back in June. Episode 6 includes an interview with Adam Sisman, who edited Dashing for the Post: Selected Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor (2016) and More Dashing: Further Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor (2018). Unfortunately the interview is not about his Paddy work, but I thought that you might like to hear Adam speak!

Listen to the podcast here.