lunes, 2 de febrero de 2009

A Time to Keep Silence

A Time to Keep Silence (New York Review Books Classics paperback, 2007)
by Patrick Leigh Fermor
UK, 1957

Lovely little travelogue about Leigh Fermor's stay in three French monasteries and visit to the ruins of another complex in Turkey sometime in the mid-1950s. Although the author's aims were decidedly secular at the outset (he candidly admits that his journey began with a search for a cheap and quiet place to stay where he could finish writing another book), NYRB's classification of this as "literature/religion" hints at how sucessfully the work touches on matters far beyond the mundane. Of the three chapters ("The Abbey of St. Wandrille de Fontanelle," "From Solesmes to La Grand Trappe," and "The Rock Monasteries of Cappadocia," all noteworthy for their simple but graceful prose), I particularly enjoyed the first for its insightful and completely absorbing account of what it's like for a lay person to undergo the retreat from the world that Benedictine monastic life requires. Cautioning the reader that he could only immerse himself in a very small measure of St. Wandrille's routine as an outsider, Leigh Fermor's sensitivity and openness to the experience as a guest are nevertheless evident in his ability to communicate the satisfactions of abbey life to a world so removed from its own. The sections on La Grande Trappe, an extremely austere Cistercian monastery, and the Cappadocian ruins, cradle of monasticism in the days of the desert fathers, are also interesting, so I'm happy to see that Sir Patrick has several other books for me to discover eventually if not sooner. (

Patrick Leigh Fermor

In lieu of a Wiki entry:
Helena Smith, Literary legend learning to type at 92 (2007)
William Dalrymple, Patrick Leigh Fermor: The man who walked (2008)

2 comentarios:

  1. What a neat topic for a travelogue. I just read a book by a Jesuit priest last month, and he visits a few monastaries, so now I'm curious about the layman's point of view. :)

  2. Eva, I'd love to know the title of that Jesuit monastery travel book you mention, which sounds interesting. In the meantime, thanks for dropping by!