Jeremy Lewis

A Latter-Day Byron

Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure


John Murray 448pp £25 order from our bookshop

For all his geniality and charm, Patrick Leigh Fermor – ‘Paddy’ to his great army of friends – is a surprisingly divisive figure. To his admirers, myself included, he is the greatest travel writer of the last century, a master of English prose whose seemingly enchanted life included walking across Europe from Rotterdam to Istanbul at the age of 18 and, as a member of the resistance in German-occupied Crete, capturing a German general and shipping him to Egypt – an episode later filmed as Ill Met by Moonlight, in which Leigh Fermor was played by Dirk Bogarde. Less romantic souls find his prose over-elaborate and long-winded, and are irritated by his readiness to burst into song at the least provocation, as often as not in Greek or Romanian. They cast a cold eye on the two books in which he described his prewar hike on the grounds that, writing half a century after the event, no one could have remembered what happened in such meticulous detail, and they worry (like Leigh Fermor himself) about the extent to which German reprisals against Cretan villages were prompted by the abduction of General Kreipe. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Hart sets out to unsettle, startle and disturb. In this strange, disconcerting, radical version of a strange, disc… ,
    • Here is @MannJessica's June crime fiction round-up, discussing books by Georges Simenon, Jack Grimwood,… ,
    • John Stubbs reviews Stephen Greenblatt's latest, 'Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power' ,
    • RT : What happened when US military strategist Herman Kahn - one of Kubrick’s three models for Dr Strangelove - took LSD… ,
    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,
    • RT : First founded in Edinburgh in 1979, is considered a trusted independent source for reviews of new book… ,