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A Time to Keep Silenceby Karen Armstrong
Synopses & Reviews
While still a teenager, Patrick Leigh Fermor made his way across Europe, as recounted in his classic memoirs, " A Time of Gifts" and "Between the Woods and the Water." During WorldWar II, he fought with local partisans against the Nazi occupiers of Crete. But in "A Time to Keep Silence," Leigh Fermor writes about a more inward journey, describing his several sojourns in some ofEurope's oldest and most venerable monasteries. He stays at the Abbey of St. Wandrille, a great repository of art and learning; at Solesmes, famous for its revival of Gregorian chant; and at the deeply asceticTrappist monastery of La Grande Trappe, where monks take a vow of silence. Finally, he visits the rock monasteries of Cappadocia, hewn from the stony spires of a moonlike landscape, where he seeks some trace of the life ofthe earliest Christian anchorites.
More than a history or travel journal, however, this beautiful short book is a meditation on the meaning of silenceand solitude for modern life. Leigh Fermor writes, "In the seclusion of a cell--an existence whose quietness is only varied by the silent meals, the solemnity of ritual, and long solitary walks in thewoods--the troubled waters of the mind grow still and clear, and much that is hidden away and all that clouds it floats to the surface and can be skimmed away; and after a time one reaches a state of peace that isunthought of in the ordinary world."
About the Author
Patrick Leigh Fermor was born in 1915 of English and Irish descent. After his stormy school days, followed by the walk across Europe to Constantinople that begins in A Time of Gifts (1977) and continues through Between the Woods and the Water (1986), he lived and traveled in the Balkans and the Greek archipelago. His books Mani (1958) and Roumeli (1966) attest to his deep interest in languages and remote places. In the Second World War he joined the Irish Guards, became a liaison officer in Albania, and fought in Greece and Crete. He was awarded the DSO and OBE. He now lives partly in Greece—in the house he designed with his wife, Joan, in an olive grove in the Mani—and partly in Worcestershire. He was knighted in 2004 for his services to literature and to British–Greek relations.
Karen Armstrong, a historian of religion, spent seven years in a Roman Catholic religious order; she has written about this experience in Through the Narrow Gate and The Spiral Staircase. She is also the author of many books, including A History of God, The Great Transformation, and, most recently, The Bible: A Biography.
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