‘When I first read A Time of Gifts I felt it in my feet. It spoke to my soles. It rang with what in German is called Sehnsucht: a yearning or wistful longing for the unknown and the mysterious. It made me want to stand up and stride out into adventure.
He marches with the seven-league boots of youth, fatigue barely registering as whole countries roll beneath his heel. The comforting rhythm of his journey — exertion, encounter, rest, food, sleep; exertion, encounter, rest, food, sleep — rocks its readers into feelings of happiness and invulnerability. I could do this, you think, I could just start walking and keep going for a day or two, or three, or four, or more . . .’
Listen to Robert Macfarlane reading from his beautiful essay, The Gifts of Reading. Recorded especially for Adventures for Harriet: a 600-mile literary pilgrimage across Europe by foot. Find out more below.
About the contributor
On Sunday 30 April 2017, 34-year-old Londoner Katy MacMillan-Scott embarked on the adventure of a lifetime: a 600-mile journey from Rotterdam to Budapest, following the route of writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor. It is the first leg of a literary pilgrimage that will see her travel all the way to Istanbul over the next few years.
Katy decided to undertake the epic journey following the death of her friend Harriet Clarke from bowel cancer at the age of 32 last March. She credits Robert Macfarlane’s essay, The Gifts of Reading – which is centered around A Time of Gifts – and a talk at the Frontline Club for inspiring her to plan a literary adventure in Harriet’s memory, to celebrate her friend’s life and to raise awareness for Bowel Cancer UK’s Never Too Young campaign.