Patrick Leigh Fermor’s enviably colorful life took off when in 1934, at the age of eighteen, he decided to walk across Europe. In just over a year he had trekked through nine countries and taught himself three languages, and his enthusiasm and curiosity for every kind of experience made him equally happy in caves or country houses, among shepherds or countesses.
At the outbreak of war 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 southern Greece that he returned to his earliest walk. In these books, which took many years to write, he created a vision of a prewar Europe, which in its beauty and abundance has never been equaled.
Artemis Cooper has drawn on years of interviews and conversations with Leigh Fermor and his closest friends, and has had complete access to his archive. Her beautifully crafted biography portrays a man of extraordinary gifts—no one wore their learning so playfully nor inspired such passionate friendship.
In her arresting biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor, an ever-curious travel writer known for experiencing locales at ground- level, Cooper (Writing at the Kitchen Table), studies a man determined to see the world firsthand, with interviews from family and friends, rare letters, and diaries. Fermor, who grew up at the turn of the 20th century in England, was known during his school years as a noisy troublemaker. Upon graduation in 1933, Fermor boarded a ship for mainland Europe, determined to spend a year walking through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary to Rumania. Cooper provides the details of Paddy's wanderlust and his travels to Constantinople the following year, talking to the locals, soaking up the regional folklore, but noting the cruel expansion of the Nazi doctrine through Europe. Paddy led a daring WWII mission to snare a notorious German general on Crete, where he later lived, writing exceptional travel books over four decades. Nostalgic and expertly written, Cooper fleshes out Fermor, a man who boldly traveled a world on the edge of catastrophe, which he explained in his writing to a faithful readership.