"Absence is one of the most useful ingredients of family life, and to dose it rightly is an art like any other.""Christmas... is not an external event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart.""Few are the giants of the soul who actually feel that the human race is their family circle.""If we are strong, and have faith in life and its richness of surprises, and hold the rudder steadily in our hands. I am sure we will sail into quiet and pleasent waters for our old age.""Pain and fear and hunger are effects of causes which can be foreseen and known: but sorrow is a debt which someone else makes for us.""The great and almost only comfort about being a woman is that one can always pretend to be more stupid than one is and no one is surprised.""There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.""To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world."
Freya Madeline Stark was born in Paris, where her parents were studying art. Her mother, Flora, was an Italian of Polish/German descent; her father, Robert, an English painter from Devon.
In her lifetime she was famous for her experiences in the Middle East, her writing and her cartography. Freya Stark was not only one of the first Western women to travel through the Arabian deserts (Hadhramaut), she often travelled solo into areas where few Europeans, let alone women, had ever been.
She spent much of her childhood in North Italy, helped by the fact that Pen Browning, a friend of her father, had bought three houses in Asolo. Her maternal grandmother lived in Genoa. For her 9th birthday she received a copy of the One Thousand and One Nights, and became fascinated with the Orient. She was often ill while young, and confined to the house, so found an outlet in reading. She delighted in reading French, in particular Dumas, and taught herself Latin. When she was 13 she had an accident in a factory in Italy, when her hair got caught in a machine, and she had to spend four months getting skin grafts in hospital, which left her face slightly disfigured.
She later learned Arabic and Persian, studied history in London and during World War I worked as a nurse in Italy, where her mother had remained and taken a share in a business. Her sister, Vera, married the co-owner. In November 1927 she visited Asolo for the first time in years, and later that month boarded a ship for Beirut, where her travels in the East began. She based herself first at the home of James Elroy Flecker in Lebanon and then in Baghdad, where she met the British high commissioner.
By 1931 she had completed three dangerous treks into the wilderness of western Iran, in parts of which no Westerner had ever been before, and had located the long-fabled Valleys of the Assassins (hashish-eaters). During the 1930s she penetrated the hinterland of southern Arabia, where only a handful of Western explorers had previously ventured and then never as far or as widely as she went.
During World War II, she joined the British Ministry of Information and contributed to the creation of a propaganda network aimed at persuading Arabs to support the Allies or at least remain neutral. She wrote more than two dozen books based on her travels, almost all of which were published by John Murray in London, with whom she had a successful and long-standing working relationship.