Europe Archive

Wartime Naples, as seen by Norman Lewis

The documentary based on Norman Lewis’s Naples ’44, which I mentioned on its release last year, was screened on BBC Four at the weekend. If, like me, you missed it, you can catch up on the BBC iPlayer.

Words on the wind

On a day when some parts of the British Isles are being swept by what the BBC calls “the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia”, that excellent website Caught by the River has published an extract from Nick Hunt’s Where the Wild Winds Are, which I reviewed recently.

‘Where the Wild Winds Are’: an invigorating blast of a book

My review of Nick Hunt’s Where the Wild Winds Are (Nicholas Brealey) appeared in the Review section of The Daily Telegraph yesterday. You can now read it on Deskbound Traveller.

Down to the frozen sea with Clare

Horatio Clare has been out on the water again. His last book for adults, Down to the Sea in Ships, a lyrical account of the tough trade of container shipping, was the 2015 Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. For his next, Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North, he joins the crew of the Finnish icebreaker Otso in the Bay of Bothnia, between Finland and Sweden, as they open up lanes, tow merchant ships and dislodge them from the ice. The book is due to be published by Chatto & Windus on November 9; Clare will be talking about it at Stanfords, the travel bookshop, in London, on November 16.

Talking borders in ‘The Paris Review’

Kapka Kassabova’s Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which I have mentioned here a few times, was long-listed last week for the Baillie Gifford Prize (formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize) for non-fiction, worth £30,000 to the winner. Yesterday, Jeffery Gleaves, digital editor of The Paris Review, put online his interview with the author.

Savagery and loveliness in ‘Inch Levels’

One of the strengths of Neil Hegarty’s debut novel, Inch Levels (Head of Zeus), a story of family secrets and the damage they can do, lies in its evocation of place — in this case the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal. The book, short-listed for the £15,000 Kerry Group Novel of the Year Award, is currently being explored by the book club of The Irish Times. In the paper today, Danielle McLaughlin, who knows the area well, writes on how Hegarty captures “the hint of savagery that exists alongside the loveliness”.

The depths of summer snow

In a piece in the travel section of The Guardian on Saturday, the novelist Christopher Nicholson told how he has been captivated since boyhood by the Cairngorms, and touched briefly on the survival there in summer of snow. It’s a subject he explores at slightly greater length (159 pages) in his latest book, Among the Summer Snows (September Publishing); a book he began 10 years ago, abandoned when his wife fell ill and returned to after her death. “Snow,” he admits, “has no quantifiable value; if you hold a piece in your hands it soon tells you what it’s worth by turning to water and running away.” But for him, the survival of snow in summer, its rareness and improbability, has become a singular passion. The book chronicles walks on which he seeks it out under cliffs and crags, in clefts and corries, and ponders its meaning:

There are times when I imagine the snowbeds as shrines and chapels, scattered in the mountains, the relics of a disappearing religion, and there are other times when they fill me with ideas about beauty and death. Death robs life of meaning, beauty infuses life with meaning. Death and beauty are aspects of the polar divide: on the one side weight and matter and inertia, on the other light and spirit and the airy zones. Summer snow is a bridge that stretches across the divide.

It’s a book of close looking and close thinking, attentive not just to the snow but also to the plants and to the mosses and lichens forming mini-landscapes at the author’s feet as  he makes his way to the snowbeds. A glorious little book, beautifully produced, with the author’s photographs, by the independent imprint September Publishing. 

Blown away

Jan Morris was right. Nick Hunt’s Where the Wild Winds Are (Nicholas Brealey) which he launched last night, is an exuberant, invigorating blast of a book. I’ll say more in a review in print in the next week or so.

A fair wind for Hunt

Nick Hunt’s Where the Wild Winds Are (published this week by Nicholas Brealey), in which he sets out to follow four of Europe’s named winds across the Continent, is “travel writing in excelsis,” according to Jan Morris in The Literary Review.

Shipwrecks, fossils and smugglers

For an episode of Open Country on Radio 4, the folk singer Eliza Carthy explores her home town of Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast, famed for fossils, shipwrecks and smugglers. The smugglers used a series of tunnels and interconnected cottages, she is told, and hid their contraband in their clothing, “the ladies in their long Victorian dresses… and some would look pregnant but they weren’t.” To which Carthy responds: “She was about to give birth to a nice 12-year-old single malt.”