Truth is often much better than fiction. Some of you may have read ‘The English Patient’, or seen the film; I must confess I found both slightly boring, but some of the true stories behind the novel are much more entertaining.
The ‘English patient’, I hate to say, wasn’t a romantic horribly-wounded-but-terribly-handsome hero figure – he was actually described as ‘very ugly’ with ‘nervous tics’, a ‘fat and pendulous’ nose, walking with ‘drooping shoulders’ and ‘shabbily dressed’. Besides, he wasn’t even English (KV 2/1463).
László von Almásy was a Hungarian pilot and desert explorer. He spent the 1930s driving around and flying over the Libyan Desert (that part of the Sahara that stretches between Egypt, Sudan and Libya), looking for the mythical lost oasis of Zerzura and drawing maps. Recruited by the Abwehr, the German military intelligence, at the beginning of the Second World War, Almásy was involved in one of the most interesting failures of German espionage in Egypt, which largely contributed to ‘breaking up the Egyptian 5th Column’: Operation SALAM, followed by Operation KONDOR (KV 2/1468).
In May 1942, Almásy took the head of an expedition to drive two German agents, Johannes Eppler and Heinrich Sandstede, known as MAX and MORITZ, across the desert from the Libyan oasis of Gialo to the Egyptian town of Asyut. Continue reading »