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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Count Lâszlò Ede Almâsy de Zsadány - Törökszentmiklós, (Hungary), Spy

b. August 22, 1895
d. March 22, 1951

Almásy was born in Borostyánkô, Austria-Hungary (today Bernstein im Burgenland, Austria), into a comital Hungarian noble family, and was educated by a private tutor in Eastbourne, United Kingdom. From 1911 to 1914, he lodged at Berrow, 17 Carew Road in Eastbourne.

Highly decorated pilot for the Hungarian Royal Air Force; desert explorer and researcher who discovered the prehistoric rock art sites in the Uweinat (Sudan) and Gilf Kebir (Egypt) regions. He was also a spy-for-hire, awarded an Iron Cross by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel for his work for German military intelligence in World War II.

His life, highly fictionalized, was the inspiration for the title character in Canadian Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning 1993 novel The English Patient; Ondaatje's novel was adapted for the screen in the 1996 movie The English Patient starring Ralph Fiennes (the film won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director).

In reality, Almásy was gay, and researchers have discovered about 80 of his passionate letters to a young German army officer, whom he tried to help avoid going to the Russian war front.

Almásy fell ill in 1951 during a visit in Austria. He died of dysentery in a hospital in Salzburg, where he was then buried. The epitaph on his grave, erected by Hungarian patriots in 1995, honors him as a "Pilot, Sahara Explorer, and Discoverer of the Zerzura Oasis".

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