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Literature

Travel Books by Patrick Leigh Fermor to Add to Your Summer Reading List

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915–2011), an intrepid traveler, heroic soldier, and Philhellene, is widely considered one of the finest travel writers of the twentieth century. In 1934, at the age of 18, he decided to walk across Europe to Constantinople, trekking through nine countries and teaching himself three languages along the way.

At the outbreak of World War II, he left his lover, Princess Balasha Cantacuzene, in Romania and returned to England to enlist. Commissioned into the Intelligence Corps, he became one of the handful of Allied officers supporting the Cretan resistance to the German occupation. In 1944, he commanded the Anglo-Cretan team that abducted General Heinrich Kreipe and spirited him away to Egypt. A journey to the Caribbean, stays in monasteries, and explorations all over Greece provided the subjects for his first books. It was not until he and his wife had moved to Mani in southern Greece that he returned to his earliest walk as the subject of his subsequent books.

Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermor confirmed his reputation as one of the finest writers of prose in the English language as he takes the reader on a journey through one of the most isolated regions in Greece, cut off from the rest of the country by the towering range of the Taygetus and bound in by the Aegean and Ionian seas. In the book, Leigh Fermor explores remote villages, swims in the Aegean and Ionian seas, and finds history wherever he goes in Mani.

Leigh Fermor has been described as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Graham Greene,” and bridges the genres of adventure story, travel writing, and memoir to reveal an ancient world living alongside the twentieth century.

Mani is a companion volume to Leigh Fermor’s celebrated Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece which offers readers the opportunity to immerse themselves, along with the author, in northern Greece. Leigh Fermor travels to monasteries, among shepherds, and throughout the hills, mountains, and rugged coastline of this enchanted land, Roumeli, which is not to be found on present-day maps. The name once given to all of northern Greece, stretching from the Bosporus to the Adriatic and from Macedonia to the Gulf of Corinth, evokes a world where the present is inseparably bound up with the past.

In the book, Leigh Fermor wanders through this mysterious and yet very real region. He visits Sarakatsan shepherds, the monasteries of Meteora, and the villages of Krakora, and then takes on a mission to track down a pair of Byron’s slippers at Missolonghi. As he travels, Leigh Fermor highlights the inherent conflicts of the Greek inheritance, the links to the classical and Byzantine heritage, the legacy of Ottoman oppression, along with an underlying, even older world, traces of which are found in the hills and mountains and along stretches of barely explored coast.

Leigh Fermor’s Words of Mercury: Tales from a Lifetime of Travel is a career-spanning anthology from the great traveler and travel writer. The book includes pieces from every stage of Leigh Fermor’s adventures, from his journey through Eastern Europe just before the outbreak of the Second World War to his encounter with voodoo in Haiti, to a monastic retreat to Normandy to try to write a book. Also included is the story of one of his most well-known exploits from the war, his planned and executed kidnap of a German general under British orders.

The above-mentioned books are all available online and in bookstores and libraries.

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