The Light Garden of the Angel King

Peter Levi


The Light Garden of the Angel King

Peter Levi


From time immemorial, merchants, pilgrims and invaders from East and West have penetrated the high valleys of Afghanistan.

In this resonant account, Peter Levi seeks the clues which each migration left, in the company of the young Bruce Chatwin.

Since his journey, Afghanistan has suffered forty years of invasion and civil war, making it all the more poignant to rediscover ‘this highway of archangels/this theatre of heaven/the light garden of the God-forgiven angel King.’

‘...a beautiful book, a poetic evocation and worthy of a place beside Eothen and Robert Byron’s Road to Oxiana’ - Jan Morris, The Sunday Times
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The Light Garden of the Angel King
ISBN: 978-1-906011-55-0
Format: 272pp demi pb
Price: £12.99
Place: Afghanistan

Author Biography 

PETER LEVI was born in Ruislip, Middlesex in 1931. At the age of seventeen, he joined the Society of Jesus as a novitiate, remaining a Jesuit until he resigned the priesthood twenty-nine years later in 1977. After leaving the priesthood, Levi focused his energies on poetry, translation, and archaeology. He also married Deidre, widow of Cyril Connolly. Their honeymoon spent in the Greek isles forms the latter part of The Hill of Kronos, and brings an emotional symmetry to the account of his Hellenic travels. He died in 2000.


Extract from Preface

I had to go home early, and nearly died on the way, since I turned out to have contracted blood-poisoning from a dirty needle at Athens airport. This story does not give one much confidence about the Afghan expedition.

Bruce Chatwin was in many ways the ideal companion: he was wonderfully entertaining and as a liar he outdid the Odyssey, but he was also deadly serious. I had known him for years, as a Sotheby’s salesman or expert, and then, when he gave that up, as a student of my revered friend Stuart Piggot in Edinburgh. Bruce gave up Sotheby’s because it was driving him mad, and he was suffering attacks of blindness which are a kind of hysteria: anyway the money bored him. He gave up archaeology because lectures at Edinburgh were compulsory and the students stank. He also could not stand being told there are no works of art, only artefacts. He now thought of writing a vast thesis of a book about nomads and the urge to wander. He did in fact finish it in the end, but then under the quasi-magical influence of a girl who disliked the footnotes, he flung it into the fire and started again. His road towards becoming a writer was a long one, and it was only in Songlines that he made use of the notes that had once been the foundation of his nomad studies.

However that may be, his story of the tramp he met in Jermyn Street was then fresh, and he wanted to go back to Afghanistan, where he had already been twice, to ‘see the nomads walking up and down’ as he used to quote from Robert Burton, and luckily I suggested the journey to him one day in the Ashmolean Museum, where we both used to read. I was surprised and delighted when he agreed. I got us diplomatic visas through a Foreign Office friend, which turned out to be vital, and as soon as Oxford term was over, I was ready to be off. I had no qualms about travelling with Bruce. I had met him first as a friend of Tony Mitchell’s on an expedition to Blockley to see the antiquities collection of that formidable eccentric, Captain Spencer-Churchill, Winston’s first cousin, who had bought the necklace of an Egyptian Queen from the German consul in Luxor in 1905 for five pounds and had never stopped collecting ever since. We were in two cars, one of them an old fixed axle racing car, which ended up a tree, teetering over a ten foot drop.