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A Time to Keep Silence (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 30, 2007
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"Prose lapidary and evocative enough to please even the hardiest skeptic." — The Washington Post
"His shortest book (and to my mind his best)…its hammered terseness is…a good match for the sobriety of the subject." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
"Fermor writes logbooks of discovery, keenly meandering through architecture, music, art, history and the minutiae of everyday life…[His] erudition and courage are matched by his discerning compassion, which shapes the probing character sketches that populate his books, including A Time to Keep Silence." — Los Angeles Times
"A most successful attempt to portray the reactions of the man of the world (in the literal sense) when confronted with the monastic life." — Daily Telegraph (UK)
Praise for Patrick Leigh Fermor:
"One of the greatest travel writers of all time”–The Sunday Times
“A unique mixture of hero, historian, traveler and writer; the last and the greatest of a generation whose like we won't see again.”–Geographical
“The finest traveling companion we could ever have . . . His head is stocked with enough cultural lore and poetic fancy to make every league an adventure.” –Evening Standard
If all Europe were laid waste tomorrow, one might do worse than attempt to recreate it, or at least to preserve some sense of historical splendor and variety, by immersing oneself in the travel books of Patrick Leigh Fermor.”—Ben Downing, The Paris Review
About the Author
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.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
The telling insight Fermor receives from his initial stay at St. Wandrille's, one reconfirmed after visits through the years to other Benedictine abbeys, is that hidden within abbey walls is something truly magical, "the slow and cumulative spell of healing quietness." Whereas the abbey had struck him first as a place about as exciting as a "graveyard," it becomes one where he discovers, after a painful adjustment, that he can dispense with interfering trivalities and begin to look at life steadily and whole. Not surprisingly, when he returns to the outside world, he has to adjust once again, the world now seeming after his monastic stay "an inferno of noise and vulgarity entirely populated by bounders and sluts and crooks."
Fermor's insights in this book are equally matched by his extraordinary descriptive powers. Like any true poet, he is enough a lover of the world's body to give it a memorable description.Read more ›
Fermor knows his limitations in retreating to such places in search of solitude to work on his own manuscripts. He tries to take on the mystery of the call to silence even as he tries to put it into words, to account for its appeal to a few and its strangeness to many of us. The results may not please all readers, for Fermor submits to the difference he encounters, and so by his lay status must remain too at the margins of what the monks take decades to live within. Writing well before Vatican II, Fermor conjures up an astonishingly austere regimen that he glimpses among the Trappists at their motherhouse; the Belgian Benedictines, by contrast, earn much more time for study and scholarship.
I wondered, in the decades since, how many monks remain at such European houses. Fermor provides us with efficiently told summaries of the past depredations and recoveries of such venerable communities, and one closes Fermor's depictions of life as it was lived there a half a century ago with a realization of how close it was to observances centuries older. Again, such a description leaves me to ponder how much as been altered and how much remains the same given the enormous shifts in Catholic practice and the decline in vocations since then.Read more ›
I once read a review which stated this book concluded that the vow of silence and other retreats from secular life were not effective or warranted in some circumstances. In my opinion, this conclusion was not reached by the author. The opposite appears to be true - Fermor's return to secular life seemed to be more traumatic than his adjustment period during his first visit. His understanding is remarkable and serves as a good lesson to the casual reader - his hosts honestly believe they are suffering in order to atone for the sins of the world, and they ask for nothing in return.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Actually the forth time I've purchased this book as I keep giving it away but want to still have a copy at home. Read morePublished 21 days ago by Amazon Customer
Beautiful writing about a beautiful subject. I guess such places do not allow women to visit.Published 3 months ago by Lyn Van Dusen
PLF is an interesting observer. I wish he had the ability to reflect more deeply on his experiencePublished 5 months ago by Clare Whitney
Bought it and read it.
There's a lot of terse reviews here saying this is "nothing special. Read more
This book creates a world that I wish more could find these days. It bespeaks of a calm, rational and comforting place that was a part of western civilization and helped to create... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Alma Jeanne Carman
A respectful and inspiring glimpse into the lives of the monks.Published 13 months ago by Dave McCarthy