The week started well for all my books but on Tuesday/Wednesday I decided to concentrate on finishing As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee, about which more below. In consequence of this decision, however, the only other texts that I have read since then are the Colour of Magic, which I am also coming to the end of, and – as a sideline – Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare. It is, of course, a very beautifully written poem but Venus really does need to learn to take no for an answer.
As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee
P. D. Murphy
Having reached the end of the book I can say without reservation that, even though its title is already too long, Murphy should have called his book As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee While Haunted by the Spanish Civil War and With An Insistent Desire to Make One Sided Statements About The Catholic Church. That is the sum of it.
PDM on Laurie Lee
Murphy’s great strength is that although he admires Lee he has not settled for writing a hagiography. Instead, he gives an account of a very personal journey in Laurie Lee’s footsteps. I almost said ‘the great man’s footsteps’ but one of the questions that I find myself asking after reading this book is ‘was Laurie Lee really great?’. He slept around, broke hearts, potentially lied about his Spanish civil war experiences… but then again, he loved greatly and wrote such beautiful books. What is greatness?
PDM on the Spanish Civil War
It would not surprise me to learn one day that Paul Murphy wishes he could have fought in the Spanish civil war. His support for the Republican cause is a very firm feature of the book. He doesn’t rant, though. Indeed, he writes very fairly of Roy Campbell who supported General Franco. Murphy’s writing style is very dour. Or, I might say, solemn; as if he recognises the weight of what he is talking about. That is a gift not all authors (looking at Tim Moore) appear to have.
PDM on the Catholic Church
Julian and Yasmin had an adventurous life that in some ways seemed to mirror that of Lee’s. They went to work in Sicily in the 1960s and found themselves often in conflict with the might of the Church and the Mafia that, yoked together, ruled life on the island in a fascist dictatorship.
(As I Walked Out pp.158-9)
One of the problems I have had reading As I Walked Out is my lack of knowledge regarding the Spanish Civil War. The same is the case in regards the recent history of Sicily. Did the Catholic Church and Mafia unofficially overthrow democracy and rule it together in a fascist partnership? I’m not sure what ‘fascist’ means in this context but for all I know they did. I also know, however, that twenty years later Pope John Paul II condemned the Mafia who then blew up a car outside the St John Lateran Basilica in Rome no doubt as a warning to him. I really wish Murphy had not settled for sweeping statements but explored his words more deeply.
On Going Books
The Ariadne Objective
I have now reached the point where the plot to kidnap General Müller has now begun. That isn’t a mistake, by the way; Müller was the original target. Very soon, however, he will leave Crete, to be replaced by Heinrich Kreipe.
By the way, this week I joined the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society. If you are interested in PLF, this may well be an organisation you will want to join. It’s remit not only includes bringing together ‘Paddy enthusiasts’ and publishing a journal dedicated to him but also helping to restore PLF’s home in Kardamyli so that it can be opened as a writer’s retreat (in accordance with Leigh Fermor’s wishes).
The Nearer East
As per last week’s post, it really is just a topographical assessment of, well, the nearer east (and what we would now call the Middle East, too). I’m enjoying it but can only wonder that the publishers thought the book would interest the general public. If it did, full marks to them. I see nothing in The Nearer East that makes me think the book is anything more than a lightly written academic overview.