Shank's Europe
 

Shank's Europe

A Companion to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Hook of Holland to Constantinople trilogy

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On a rainy winter evening in 1933 an eighteen year old Patrick Leigh Fermor stepped onto a Dutch freighter from a London dock and headed for the Continent. A little over a year later he walked into the city he persistently called Constantinople completing his traverse. Half a lifetime later, after becoming a decorated soldier in the Second World War and a celebrated writer after the peace, he completed the first of three volumes recounting his youthful journey.  A Time of Gifts was published in 1977 by John Murray to immediate acclaim, and was continued in 1986 by Between the Woods and the Water, and concluded posthumously in 2013 with A Broken Road.  The success of this work rests on the breathless narrative of a plucky teenager’s romantic charge across Europe combined with the erudition of the older scholar who decades later decided to write it all down.  What emerges is an intoxicating cascade of rococo language recounting not only the walk, but the history, society, culture, art, and the countless novelties which captured Paddy’s imagination along the way.

This companion to the trilogy is the product of my reading, and frequent re-reading of these works.  I was lucky enough to discover them in the age of the internet, as there is hardly a paragraph in the three volumes that did not contain a reference or a phrase that inspired me to further research.  To be certain any of Leigh Fermor’s works, the trilogy especially, can be read and enjoyed by any relatively well informed person, but their value is greatly magnified by a little bit of digging.  This project is the happy product of that digging.

The format of the Shank’s Europe is thus.  I will work from start to finish, from the introduction in A Time of Gifts, heading ultimately towards the last page of A Broken Road, selecting names, places, phrases, and whatever else that I find interesting and found out more about.  This is, therefore, not comprehensive or scientific in nature whatsoever.  Citation and pagination for the three volumes is based on the standard John Murray paperback editions.  As for other sources, I will list them when relevant.  Throughout I will be relying on Artemis Cooper’s excellent 2012 biography of Paddy, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, also published by Murray, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, as well as the Baedeker travel guides, that pre-eminent resource for pre-war travellers.

 

In the introduction to the second volume Leigh Fermor notes that his friend, Andrew, Duke of Devonshire, suggested the title of ‘Shank’s Europe’ for the trilogy, which he found ‘almost irresistible’; Shank’s Mare, or Shank’s Pony, being a euphemism for walking.  And since he declined to use the title, I have taken it for this project.

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