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Phoenix: The Station: Athos: Treasures and Men
by Robert Byron
ISBN 1842122088 / 9781842122082 / 1-84212-208-8
Publisher Phoenix Press
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Robert Byron's epic journey to Mount Athos begins with preparations for travel--as a vehicle and a philosophy--propelling the reader over the bumps of a 22-year-old writer defining his style. First published in 1928, nine years before Byron's classic The Road to Oxiana, The Station gives a glimpse of the talent and at the same time offers an unintended benefit: a sense of the era through the classic understated wit and observation of the Empire's British traveller abroad.
At my side, thoughtfully placed by the head steward, sat a compatriot, who, after thirty-six hours' unbroken silence, opened conversation with the words: "Do you perspire much?" Throughout the voyage we kept our table animated with discussion of the absorbent merits of respective underwears.The style separates itself from the "me" generation of travel writing. Not that the reader will be bereft of the details of insects, strange food and the difficulties of transport, but the humour of it plays well against the serious discourses as he rediscovered Byzantium for the English world. He concludes: "The foregoing chapters have aimed to picture Athos in every aspect as the composite and living memorial of a great civilization, to which nature and man, history and religion, artist and architect, have contributed and contribute".
Byron's skill at detail while delivering sweeping observations on the politics and turmoil of the times, is not only good fireside reading but it should be the aspiration of any serious writer attempting to define a journey instead of a trip. --Kathleen Buckley [via]