29 March 2011

One Last Visit -- Brideshead

One last look a character from the Brideshead bunch. As stated earlier, Robert Byron was an Eton pal of Hugh Lygon. Byron traveled with Hugh and his father Lord Beauchamp. Of his traveling companion Byron would write:

"Lord Beauchamp is one of those indefatigable sightseers, who maps out every moment of every day beforehand... Lord Beauchamp has a mania for Italian dishes & we frequent the grubbiest little restaurants in search of what I strongly suspect is horse."

The experience, however, changed the life of Robert Byron. He took his love for art, architecture and travel and turned his writing into a virtually new genre. Byron hit his stride with his work, The Road to Oxiana, the account a nearly year long journey through Afghanistan and Iran. In his introduction to the Picador Edition, famed travel writer Bruce Chatwin wrote:

"Anyone who reads around the travel books of the thirties must, in the end, conclude that Robert Byron's The Road to Oxiana is the masterpiece... I write as a partisan, not as a critic. Long ago, I raised it to the status of 'sacred text', and thus beyond criticism. My own copy - now spineless and floodstained after four journeys to Central Asia - has been with me since the age of fifteen."

Paul Fussel said of The Road to Oxiana, it is to travel books as what Ulysses was to the novel or The Waste Land was to poetry. While his books have lived on to inspire many a soul filled with wanderlust, Byron's life was short. In 1941 he was working as a war correspondent with the Sunday Times. Byron was on the merchant ship, the SS Jonathan Holt, when it was torpedoed by a U-boat. His body was never found. He was just shy of his 36th birthday.

As a tribute to his large and winning personality, friends continued to "see" Robert Byron strolling down the streets of London.

Here are a few of Robert Byron's memorable photos of the Oljeitu Tomb in Sultaniya, Iran.

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