Tyrolean Journal, by C. Henry Warren. 8vo., 190 pages, with 33 photo-illustrations, chiefly by the author. London: Robert Hale, Ltd., 1954. Price, 16/—.
Warren is the author of country books, of which England Is a Village is the best known. He has now recorded a year spent in the remote Austrian village of Ehrwald, north of the Fern pass on the road from Imst, in the Inn valley, to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Having the farmer’s mind, he is more interested in things at eye level or below, than in mountain heights. His narrative is related to the seasons: The Golden Fall, Nothing But Snow, Release into Spring and Alpine Summer. The village he has chosen has lost its fundamental economic activity; all its crafts (iron, weaving, woodcarving) have diminished or vanished, and the only future is in the ski-tourist industry, which may eventually solve the problem. At present, however, there is poverty based on limited crops of potatoes and hay, without rotation or replacement, in contrast with the nearby Inn valley, where they bring in maize, wheat, rye, apples and apricots, potatoes and sugar beets. But the Tyrolese, even in need, are unable to do anything without a touch of poetry, and the customs, celebrations, and superstitions form an entertaining part of the description. The nearby range of the Wetterstein (Zugspitze) suggests a Nibelung opera: “It is rugged, mighty, overbearing; beautiful, of course, but not in the least endearing. Its great limestone face is full of treacherous fissures. The weather boils in it like a cauldron. It can strike terror, and yet, on a calm day, at sunset or by moonlight, it can be so magical that it catches the breath.”
The book is written with a certain charm, but a year in Austria was insufficient to perfect the author’s spelling of German names; and it is as incorrect to speak of the Tyrol as it would be to use the definite article before New York.
J. M. T.