Freya Stark a biography of her nomadic life. As famous as Freya Stark was in her time and only having died in September 1993, I had never heard of her. Maybe if I had been living in England at the time of her funeral which was attended by many titled people I might have caught a whiff of her name on the news.
She was known as a prolific travel writer traveling extensively in the Middle East, and having a complete command of many Arabic languages. Lawrence of Arabia called her “a gallant creature.” She was not afraid to travel with just a couple of local guides and ruff it. Speaking freely with the local people and gaining their confidence.
Her reputation began in 1927 when she was captured by the French military police after penetrating the rebellious Druze. She explored the mountainous area of the mysterious Assassins of Persia. Followed the Frankincense route of early traders and found many areas of archaeological interest. Including traveling in many places the name of which we are familiar with today because of the Iraqi War.
During WWII she was used extensively by the British military and diplomatic core, with an instinct for listening, gleaning information, plus her map making abilities and organizing skills.
Who was she? Well her parents were English, but after her dominant mother divorced her father and aligned herself with an Italian count and a rug manufacturing venture. Her life drastically changed, shaping a lot of her emotional inner turmoils. Taken from a west country childhood of privilege to a small untutored life of poverty, in northern Italy. This led to her receiving very little schooling and being brought up speaking English with an Italian accent, which was she felt a bane of her life. Never quite being accepted in the circles to which she aspired and the background from which she really came from.
She did not extricate herself from her mother and the count until she was 34, but when she did break lose it was in a big way. Traveling and writing and always falling in love with the wrong men. Her career and travels spanned over 60 years, having published, 22 books of travels and poetic prose. She was over 100 years old when she died.
A biography of a fascinating intrepid woman traveler of the old school. I would recommend this book to read.
Also on the side line it touches on some interesting history of Iraq and what has led up to the problems there, along with the Palestinian problems of today.