the letters of posh, primitive Paddy Leigh Fermor

78eb3d18-c76e-11e6-89fb-efb68b0c62ffJames Campbell at The Times Literary Supplement:

Patrick Leigh Fermor knew his place: bestriding the posh and the primitive, with one hobnailed boot planted in each. “Some parts of Greece, and this is one”, he wrote in 1966 of Kardamyli, the village in the Peloponnese that was to become the closest he ever had to a permanent home, “are so backward they don’t know the difference between nice and nasty.” This has been read by one reviewer ofDashing for the Post: The letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor as appalling snobbery, but Fermor’s immersion in Greek society at every level was as deep as any foreigner’s can be. He came close to dying for it on several occasions. The attachment stretched over eight decades, ending only on June 9, 2011, when, aged ninety-six, he returned from Kardamyli to England, to die the next day at the place where his wife Joan Eyres Monsell was buried. One letter after another in this superb collection recalls meetings with “infirm, booted, sashed, turbaned” Cretans, a people “quite unlike anyone else, funnier, higher-spirited, more musical and alert”. He relished the “whiskery embraces” that enfolded him on visits to the island for reunions of survivors of the resistance in which “Mihali” – Fermor’snom de guerre – had played a prominent, even decisive, role. When, in 1975, he appeared on a French television show with Manoli Paterakis and another guerrilla fighter, all were put up in a “grand hotel” off the Champs-Élysées. “It was so strange to see Manoli – a mountain chap who belongs to sheepfolds, caves and mountain tops – among those muslin curtains, brass bedsteads, pink lampshades, Empire furniture, watered-silk panels on the walls, gold swan-shaped bath taps, and reproductions of Watteau . . . .”

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