Perseus in the Wind - Freya Stark

Though it may be unessential to the imagination, travel is necessary to an understanding of men. Only with long experience and the opening of his wares on many a beach where his language is not spoken, will the merchant come to know the worth of what he carries, and what is parochial and what is universal in his choice. Such delicate goods as justice, love and honour, courtesy, and indeed all the things we care for, are valid everywhere; but they are variously moulded and often differently handled, and sometimes nearly unrecognizable if you meet them in a foreign land; and the art of learning fundamental common values is perhaps the greatest gain of travel to those who wish to live at ease among their fellows.

Perseus in the Wind was my first foray into Stark’s writing but will certainly not be my last.

I enjoyed every single meditation Stark included in this collection of short essays. Some I enjoyed as novelties, some I disagreed with, some made me think, some just spoke to me, but all of them were beautiful in their own right.

Stark points our herself that she was not formally educated and that her thoughts are merely that – her own take, but when she writes, it feels like she’s used her observations of humanity to pin point some very essential truths.

And yes, I loved the writing, too.

Previous Reading Updates:

Reading progress update: I’ve read 20 out of 172 pages.

I have had Perseus in the Wind on my “currently-reading shelf” for quite some time, but it never felt like the right time to start the book in earnest. I had only ever made it past the Foreword before now.

It just shows me once again that quite often books, not me, choose when it is time to read them.

I grabbed the book in the early hours of this morning to accompany me on a short work trip, and spending the evening in my hotel room with little other distraction – it’s cold, wet, and miserable outside, so not great for venturing into town earlier this evening – has been the perfect time to read Stark’s meditations.

This is a book about travel, but it is more a collection of her thoughts on different themes like paganism, service, happiness, etc. than a travelogue about a specific place.

From what I have read so far this will be a 5* read for me.

“Then the pass becomes a gateway to the stars.

Beyond a black saddle, between buttresses whose detail is lost or wanly shining perhaps with snow, the stars hand as if the edge of the world were there and one could reach them. They swing in the night-wind that makes them twinkle and never touches the earth; and their shivering light, and their steadfast journeying and their repeated presence make them companions as one lies sheltered in some corrie, a part of the shadow of the hills.

It happened that in this Elburz summer the constellation of Perseus night after night spanned the gap of the pass with his scimitar. He danced in a wind whose earthly brother blew thin from the north and the Caspian Sea. I came to feel his stars as a friendliness and a bond in the gaiety of spaces and the cold of night. The memory has remained and has given the name of Perseus to this book, in which I have written about things that are beyond our grasp yet visible to all, dear to our hearts and far from our understanding as the constellations; a comfort for the frail light they shed. 

Without being astronomers, in our separate darkness, we rejoice in them, and from our caves, our twilights of belief and ignorant names and lonely journeys, feel that we a fellowship that looks to the same stars.”

Reading progress update: I’ve read 36 out of 172 pages.

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