'At the first mention of going to Roumania, a great many people, as I did myself, would take down their atlas and open the map. For Roumania, there can be no question, is among the lesser known lands of Europe.'
So begins Sir Sacheverell Sitwell's account of his Roumanian journey, made in the 1930s, when Bucharest was still eight days overland from London.
His four-week trip brings him into contact with longhaired gypsies at country fairs as well as the aristocracy in their medieval castles. The natural richness and variety of the landscape-from Transylvania to the Wallachian plains, the Carpathian peaks to the Danube Delta-delight him, as does the diversity of humanity he encounters, while his deep knowledge of European art and architecture makes him the ideal guide to the paintings, frescos, and buildings of Roumania.
It is impossible, of course, to read of Roumania in the 1930s without thinking of what lay ahead for that country, but the abiding impression left by the book is of the freshness of Sitwell's perceptions and his unquenchable curiosity in everything he saw.
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About the Author
The youngest child of Sir George Reresby Sitwell, Sachverell Sitwell (1897-1988) was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire and brought up in Derbyshire; he was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford. In World War I he served from 1916 in the British Army, in the Grenadier Guards.
After the war he went to Balliol but did not complete a degree; and was heavily involved in Osbert and Edith's projects. In 1925 he married a Canadian, Georgia Doble. Constant Lambert set to music The Rio Grande, one of his poems, and it was performed and broadcast in 1928.
Because his poetry was so severely criticised by those who disliked the Sitwells in general, and although Canons of Giant Art is a work of very considerable impact, he refused to publish any of his poems for many years. In 1967 Derek Parker published a selection of his poems in the summer edition of Poetry Review, including his elegy for his beloved sister Edith. Among his most remarkable and original works are a series of lengthy auto-biographical and art-based "fantasias" such as "For Want of the Golden City", "The Hunters and the Hunted", "Dance of the Quick and the Dead"(1936) that defy easy classification.