There are three major aspects about Paddy Leigh Fermorâs life (1915 â 2011):
â˘ The question of whether he was just a dangerously charming, completely up himself social climbing Hooray Henry with film star good looks and amazing luck OR (actually) a genuine, impressive all round Renaissance Man who somehow time travelled into the 20th century, a war hero and a literary genius who set the standard for high-end intellectual travel writing and scholarship.
â˘ His war hero reputation is based on his exploits as a S.O.E. Intelligence officer during WWII, leading resistance fighters against the Nazi occupation of Crete and famously kidnapping a German general. (Which was later written up by his mate W. Stanley Moss as the book âIll Met by Moonlightâ (1950) and then the movie (which starred Dirk Bogarde giving a typically quite nice but totally inappropriate understated performance.)
â˘ His books âA Time of Giftsâ and âBetween the Woods and the Waterâ, are quite famous travel-writing classics. They are based on his early 1930s trek from Holland to Constantinople (Istanbul) â but not written and published until 1977 and 1986.
There are two elements that make them interesting as a particular genre of travel writing:
Firstly, LF employs a technique that very cleverly retains the persona of an innocent wide-eyed 18-year-old walking and hitch-hiking across Europe in the 1930s, yet embroiders and expands that account with the mass of material, the vast amount of knowledge, the experiences of the next 40 years of his life.
Listen to the rest: Radio 6PR, Sunday evening 22:10, 22nd January. Harvey Deegan’s “Remember When” www.6pr.com.au/live.audio.html