Three Letters From The Andes by Patrick Leigh Fermor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Typical. That is to say, excellent.
Not that it is particularly related, but I observe that Fermor has a peculiar, sometimes-maddening, often-perplexing knack for stumbling into sublime, almost preposterous, encounters. His wit and wisdom, his polymath existence, his seemingly boundless charm, generate plenty on their own, of course, but his life is riven with out-and-out flukes. Like when, late at night, after pulling himself, sodden sweater and flooded boots and all, from an icy pool on a seemingly barren, rocky shoreline, he discovers a cave glowing with campfire and the good cheer of large party of rustics. They naturally take to Fermor as if he were a brother (“A Cave on the Black Sea” in “Words of Mercury”). Instead of shivering the night away under a scratchy wool blanket, Fermor gets drunk with shepherds and fishermen, who eventually indulge in a bawdy dance performance that is perhaps best left to be discovered on one’s own.
In “Letters,” this eye-rolling moment occurs after six weeks in the dazzling glacier white of the Andes. Fermor attends a dinner at the British embassy and is seated next to a woman who he learns over the succeeding hours is the sister of one of his comrades in arms from World War II Crete. Never mind that the ambassador’s wife happens to be Bulgarian, an ethnicity squarely in Fermor’s ample wheelhouse. Wine-soaked hours pass, and when Fermor isn’t telling war stories to the sister, he is crooning Bulgarian folk songs with the “ambassadress.”
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