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

    • The 25th Bad Sex in Fiction is happening in a week. There’s a press release if you’re the sort of person who wants a press release ,
    • sorry I can’t spell fluttering. I was agitated.,
    • Probably try and get an announcement out later, for all these male writers who think of fluttering inner muscle sheaths...,
    • He felt the muscles far inside her flutteriung around him,
    • Next week sees return, and we've got discounted tickets on offer, right here: ,
    • We're rarely topical - tricky as a monthly magazine - but we've an article this month all about Laurence Binyon, po… ,
    • "We will remember them" - who wrote those words, and why have them become our terms of memorial? ,