An unexpected encounter in 1933 Germany

On the eight of December 1933 the eighteen year old student Patrick Leigh Fermor set out from London on a mission: to walk from Rotterdam to Istanbul. In 1977, after a life as a writer and traveller he wrote down his adventures, and published this book: A Time of Gifts. On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube., published by John Murray. The paperback came out in 2004 and the copy I bought was reissued in 2013. I stumbled upon it in Robert MacFarlane's little The Gifts of Reading., a small 2.5£ book published by Penguin in 2016 that I since that moment have given away to many people. I'll let him quote:

" When I first read A Time of Gifts I felt it in my feet. It spoke to my soles. It rang with what in German is called Sehnsucht: a yearning or wishful longing for the unknown and the mysterious. It made me want to stand up and march out - to walk into adventure."

Why do I talk to you about this book on this blog, my fellow Whodehousians ? Well, on page 78 Leigh Fermor sleeps in Bruchsal, Germany, in a baroque schloss, after an introduction by a friend.

"I stayed there for two nights, sleeping in the bedroom of an absent son. After a long bath I explored his collection of Tauchnitz editions and found exactly what I wanted to read in bed - Leave it to Psmith - and soon I wasn't really in a German schloss at all, but in the corner seat of a first class carriage on the 3.45 from Paddington to Market Blandings, bound for a different castle."

This was in the winter of 1933-34, in a Germany where the Nazi's just came to power, and this is one of the things that make this a fascinating book. But this little line gives us a glimpse of the popularity of P.G. in Europe in the thirties...


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