Patrick Leigh Fermor Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Patrick Leigh Fermor (FUR-mawr), highly regarded as a travel writer, was born in London, England, in 1915. His school career was unsettled. Bright but unconstrained, he was asked to leave or was expelled from the regular schools he attended. He read widely with a tutor in London. At the age of eighteen he left school and set off on a walk across Europe, from Holland to Constantinople. This journey, commenced in December, 1933, took a year and a half and carried him across Germany and the Balkans at a time when World War II was gathering. He wandered and traveled widely throughout the Balkans and Greece during the late 1930’s and acquired a lifelong love of remote places and language.

In 1939 Fermor joined the Irish Guards. During World War II he was stationed in Albania, Greece, and Crete. The most notable part of his military career was two years when he lived in occupied Crete disguised as a shepherd in the mountains; he helped organize the resistance. He took part in the daring kidnap of General Karl Kreipe, the commanding officer of the German garrison in Crete. For his heroic war exploits, Fermor was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1943 and the Distinguished Service Order in 1944.

After the war Fermor traveled in the West Indies and then settled in Greece. He published The Traveller’s Tree, about the West Indies, which won two literary prizes, and A Time to Keep Silence, about his experiences in French and German monasteries. Mani, about the rugged southern Peloponnese peninsula of Greece, also won literary prizes and is considered by some to be his finest book. It was followed by a sequel, Roumeli.

The first volume of memoirs of his walk across Europe, A Time of Gifts, published in 1977, won literary prizes as well. This volume and its companion, Between the...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cardiff, Maurice. Friends Abroad: Memories of Lawrence Durrell, Freya Stark, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Peggy Guggenheim, and Others. New York: Radcliffe Press, 1997. Cardiff, who traveled widely in his work for the British Council, devotes a chapter of his memoir to a trip through northern Greece with Fermor.

Cocker, Mark. Loneliness and Time: The Story of British Travel Writing. New York: Pantheon, 1992. Places Fermor in the context of travel writing and discusses his life, his books, and his style.

Fussell, Paul. Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Refers to Fermor in this excellent study.

Moss, W. Stanley. Ill Met by Moonlight. London: Harrap, 1950. A combination military memoir and travel book that includes the story of the abduction of General Kreipe.

Roessel, David. In Byron’s Shadow: Modern Greece in the English and American Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Discusses Fermor, along with many others, in a study of the idealization of Greece among modern writers.