“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”

Seneca

 

Patrick Leigh Fermor 2004

Author Patrick Leigh Fermor has been awarded the British Guild of Travel Writers' (BGTW) highest honour in recognition of his 60-year writing career. The award was announced at the BGTW's annual gala dinner held on Sunday night at the Savoy Hotel, London.

Book jacket with portrait of the authorPatrick, 89, divides his time between Greece and Worcestershire and his biographer, Artemis Cooper, accepted the award on his behalf from BGTW Chairman, Melissa Shales.

In 1933, when he was just 18, Patrick walked from Rotterdam to Constantinople, through Germany, Turkey and Greece. His epic journey inspired his books, A Time of Gifts and Between the Wood and the Water, two classics of modern travel writing. His exploits in Crete with the SOE during WWII were the basis for the famous Dirk Bogarde film, Ill Met by Moonlight.

Over the years he has taken readers from Germany to the Caribbean, austere Benedictine monasteries and the high peaks of the Pyrenees and Andes. His 1958 book, Mani, explored the remote southern tip of Greece, then a place where foreign visitors were curiosities to be gawped at by the locals. He fell in love with the region and built a home in an olive grove.

Patrick, who continues to write, said: "Travel writing is like interpreting an ancient and dusty mosaic. Only by gently pouring on water, bit by bit, does the real pattern emerge."

Commenting on his Lifetime Achievement Award, Melissa Shales said: "Patrick Leigh Fermor's rich, flowing style, soaring imagination and wonderful journeys have inspired generations of younger travel writers. It is truly an honour to present him with this award."

Speaking from his home in Greece Patrick said: "I am so sorry not to be with you to say how very moved and honoured I am by the choice of the British Guild of Travel Writers. I am very grateful for this splendidly encouraging pat on the back. I feel spurred on to do better. Meanwhile, as I am in my studio just above the sea, I plan to dash down the steps, dive in and swim towards the noonday sun revelling in this moment of glory."

In 2004, Patrick Leigh Fermor was awarded a KBE and in 2007 was made a Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by the Greek Government.

 

 
Eve HARTRIDGE

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