Patrick Leigh Fermor – still from BBC film 2008
Ninety six is a good age to have lived. Both my grandmothers lived into their mid-90s, one of them to 96, a pivotal experience in my own life. Why am I telling you this?! Well PLF is such a vivid presence to me, principally from his writing and words and their conjuring of his feet and ‘heart’, that the news of his death is sad and yet the confirmation that he lived until today makes me happy.
Peter Levi wrote an obit before he died himself, as is the way with obit writers, and describes PLF as a poet. It’s obviously the case in many ways, but also in quite a specific one I think. In our age, an art documentary which once would have been at the treasurable end of national television, wins the Turner Prize -while there’s no place for such things on TV. This is more or less the case, and implies no qualitative judgement of the maker but it says something about us, doesn’t it?
We live in an age where the kind of prose that climbed those slopes in the Mani really is more or less as dense and allusive as poetry [incontrovertibly ‘bad’, almost scandalous!], whereas poetry [in the UK] is often what? Jingles. Worse; dried-up jingles. I’m a zealous pursuer of the substantively new, and am certain that it is not inevitable -especially/despite the technological forms it takes- that it cannot exude breadths and depths, complexity, even difficulty.
One of the joys of meeting and then working with Shaina and Ashok of CAMP [on a film for Folkestone Triennial], has been the discovery of pad.ma, which I realised offered me something like the depths and complex potentials of a real book -or real bookishness. That this is not only possible but actual. That shimmer and superficiality is only what it was always, even if it seems so much more definitive of things now. There were and there are exceptions…
So, anyway. Don’t go to the Mani but do go and read the books and think about how you experience a new hill, valley, port, bay, in a place you’ve only just arrived at and then think again about how he did…
Quite like this from The Guardian’s Obit;
“Among his casual attainments, he climbed a peak in the Andes with the mountaineer Robin Fedden and the Duke of Devonshire (who beat the others to the top), and he swam the Hellespont, where he encountered a Russian submarine. In the 1980s he underwent treatment for cancer, which proved successful. Yet his life was distinctly bookish and scholarly: he was a discoverer of obscure and new writers, he translated poetry, and was at some deep level essentially a poet.”
2 thoughts on “on the living of patrick leigh fermor”
Biographer Artemis Cooper’s obit in The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/sir-patrick-leigh-fermor-soldier-scholar-and-celebrated-travel-writer-hailed-as-the-best-of-his-time-2296162.html
Colin Thubron’s obit in NYRB http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/sep/29/patrick-leigh-fermor-1915-2011/