- Eric Newby
name = Eric Newby
imagesize = 200px
birthdate = birth date|1919|12|6
birthplace = Hammersmith Bridge, London
deathdate = death date and age|2006|10|20|1919|12|6
deathplace = Guildford, Surrey
occupation = Author, Travel Writer
nationality = British
period = 1956 - 99
genre = History, Travel, Non-fiction,
subject = India, Middle East, Britain, Europe, Afghanistan
spouse = Wanda
children = 2 (a son and a daughter)
influences = Novelists:
Evelyn Waugh, Jerome K. Jerome
influenced = Author: William Dalrymple
website = http://authorslounge.meettheauthor.com/37/eric_newby/
George Eric Newby CBE MC (
December 6, 1919– October 20, 2006[BBC News [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6075102.stm Travel writer Newby dies aged 86] 22 October 2006] ) was an English authorof travel literature, regarded by many as one of the finest travel writers of the 20th century.
Newby was born and grew up near
Hammersmith Bridge, London, and was educated at St Paul's School. His father was a partner in a firm of wholesale dressmakers but he too also harboured dreams of escape, running away to sea as a child before being captured at Millwall. Owing to his father's frequent financial crises and his own failure to pass algebra, Newby was taken away from school at sixteen and put to work as an office boy in the Dorland advertising agency on Regent Street, where he spent most of his time cycling around the office admiring the typists' legs. Fortunately, the agency lost the Kellogg's account and he apprenticed aboard the Finnish windjammer" Moshulu" in 1938, sailing in what Newby entitled the " The Last Grain Race" (1956) from Europe to Australia and back by way of Cape Horn(his journey was also pictorially documented in "Learning the Ropes"). In fact, two more grain races followed the 1939 race in which Newby participated, with the last race being held in 1949. [http://pamir.chez-alice.fr/Voiliers/Classe_A/Grainwe.htm pamir.chez-alice: "The grain races"] (retrieved 1 December 2006)]
In 1940, Newby was commissioned into the
Black Watchin Indiabefore volunteering for the Special Boat Section, then operating out of Alexandria. In 1942 his detachment was sent on an operation to sabotage a German airfield at Cataniain Sicily, attempting to stop the bombing of a convoy bound for Maltaby Junkers Ju 88s. No-one had told them there were 1,000 German troops guarding the airfield, and the entire party was captured. Between 1942 and 1943, he was held prisoner of warin a camp at Fontanellato, in the Po Valley.
Escape and recapture from POW camp
After the announcement of the Italian "Amistizio" in September 1943, Newby made his escape with a broken ankle into the surrounding countryside. He was initially helped by his future wife, Wanda, the daughter of a Slovene teacher, and later sheltered at great risk by the local Italian peasantry. He passed the winter of 1943 with Luigi and Agata on the remote Pian del Sotto, having to do the back-breaking work of clearing stones from their fields, and then hid out in a cave. These experiences were described in vivid detail in perhaps his most memorable book "Love and War in the Apennines" He and his fellow English escapee, James, were finally betrayed and captured by Fascist "milizia" after about five months of freedom, and Newby spent the rest of the war in
Czechoslovakian and German prison camps. He was awarded the Military Crossin 1946 for his part in the ill-fated Whynot raid. He then worked for MI9, helping and rewarding those who had sheltered escaped prisoners, and this allowed him to woo and finally marry the beautiful Wanda Skof. He ended the war as a Lieutenantand then served in the Territorial Army Special Air Service.
Post War years
Newby spent the next ten years in his father's dressmaking business, later recalling his time in "Something Wholesale" (1962), then for the couture house of Worth Paquin (1955-56) and then for the publishers Secker & Warburg. He returned to fashion as the central buyer for the John Lewis department stores, but he was not suited to the 9-5 routine.
Expedition in the Hindu Kush
Ill-prepared and inexperienced, Newby and his friend Hugh Carless set out to climb Mir Samir, an unclimbed glacial peak of convert|20000|ft|m in the
NuristanMountains of Afghanistan, an expedition later chronicled in "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush" (1958), probably his most widely-known work. Newby's style was inspired by the comic portrait of Englishmen abroad presented in the writings of novelists such as Evelyn Waughand Jerome K. Jerome. In a preface to "A Short Walk", Waugh identifies the central elements of this humorous tradition: its quintessentially English spirit of amateurismand a tone of ironic understatement.
Having endured a month of hardship during their adventure in Afghanistan and nearing the end of their trip, a somewhat 'knackered' Newby encounters the striding form of
Wilfred Thesigeron the banks of the Upper Panjshir, describing their meeting as that of an inept amateur and professional adventurer. In 1963, he and Wanda set out to travel the convert|1200|mi|km of the Gangesby rowing boat, described in "Slowly Down the Ganges" (1966). From 1963 to 1973, Newby was travel editor for " The Observer" newspaper, writing several more books and often accompanied on this travels by his wife.
His later works include "The Big Red Train Ride" (1978), "On The Shores of the
Mediterranean" (1984) and "Round Irelandin Low Gear" (1987). However, his gift as a writer comes from the distillation of his early youthful experiences and this later writing, though amusing, somewhat lacks the freshness of his earlier books.
He also made travel films for the
BBC, returning to Parmawith his wife Wanda in "The Travel Show" (directed by Paul Coueslant, 1994) and visiting one of his favourite cities, Istanbul(1996).
In 2005, for the first time in France, his photographic work about the last grain race in 1938-39 was exhibited by the Musée Portuaire of Dunkirk as a part of "Cap sur le Horn". Jacopo Brancati [Italian born photographer (1966), is specialised in maritime reportages] , was the curator of this exhibition section.
For many years Newby lived in
Dorsetbefore finally moving to Surrey. He died in Guildfordon 20th October, 2006 aged 86.
Awards and Recognitions
Newby was appointed a CBE in 1994 and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Guild of Travel Writers in 2001. He was also a Fellow of the
Royal Society of Literatureand the Royal Geographic Society.
His life and work were profiled in ITV's "
The South Bank Show" (1994) and in the BBC's " Travellers' Century" (2008) presented by fellow travel writer Benedict Allen.
The Last Grain Race" (1956)
* "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush" (1958)
* "Something Wholesale" (1962)
* "Slowly Down the Ganges" (1966)
* "Time off in Southern Italy: The Observer Guide to Resorts and Hotels" (ed.) (1966)
* "My Favorite Stories of Travel" (ed.) (1967)
* "Grain Race: Pictures of Life before the Mast in a Windjammer" (1968)
* "Wonders of Britain: A Personal Choice of 480" with Diana Petry (1968)
* "Wonders of Ireland: A Personal Choice of 484" with Diana Petry (1969)
Love and War in the Apennines" (1971)
* "The Mitchell Beazley World Atlas of Exploration" (1975)
* "Great Ascents: A Narrative History of Mountaineering" (1977)
* "The Big Red Train Ride" (1978)
* "A Traveller's Life" (1982)
* "On the Shores of the Mediterranean" (1984)
* "A Book of Travellers' Tales" (ed.) (1985)
* "Round Ireland in Low Gear" (1987)
* "What the Traveller Saw" (1989)
A Small Place in Italy" (1994)
* "A Merry Dance Around the World: The Best of Eric Newby" (1995)
* "Learning the Ropes: An Apprentice in the Last of the Windjammers" (1999)
* "Departures and Arrivals" (1999)
* Cocker, Mark, "Loneliness and Time: British Travel Writing in the Twentieth Century", London: Secker and Warburg, and New York: Pantheon, 1992
* Newby, Wanda, "Peace and War: Growing up in Fascist Italy", London: Collins, 1991
* Robb, Kenneth A. and Harender Vasudeva, "Eric Newby" in British Travel Writers, 1940 [-] 1997, "Dictionary of Literary Biography", volume 204, edited by Barbara Brothers and Julia M. Gergits, Detroit: Gale, 1999: 223-34
* Thesiger, Wilfred, Desert, "Marsh and Mountain: The World of a Nomad", London: Collins, 1979; as "The Last Nomad", New York: Dutton, 1980
* "The Guardian" obituary (Edward Mace George) [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1928810,00.html Eric Newby: Idiosyncratic travel writer from another age, and author of the classic A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush]
* "The Times" obituary [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,60-2416840,00.html Eric Newby]
* Book Review, [http://theopencritic.com/?p=12 Slowly Down the Ganges] , at The Open Critic
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