Buried behind the rugged Taygetus mountains, south of Sparta, the Mani peninsula was one of the last truly remote outposts of Europe. That is, until legendary travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor found his way there in the late 1950s. Falling in love with the dramatic landscape and stony villages populated for centuries by warring tribes, Leigh Fermor made his home in the area and wrote extensively about its fascinating culture. As a result, no visit to the Mani is complete without dipping your literary toes into the life and times of the great man and his equally engaging wife, Joan Rayner.
Here are some of our favourite books about the Mani, the Leigh Fermors and modern Greece.
by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Home to the southernmost point of Europe, the Mani peninsula was a largely unknown isolated outpost until this spellbinding travelogue by the inimitable Patrick Leigh Fermor was first published in 1958. A tale of adventure, learning, observation and fantasy, Leigh Fermor brings the Mani to life – this is the essential book for any visitor to the area.
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
by Artemis Cooper
Leigh Fermor was a war hero and one of the greatest travel writers of our times. His pre-war walk across Europe from London to Constantinople was legendary and recorded in two exceptional books, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. He was a self-educated polymath, wonderful company and a true Hellonphile. This biography, written by Patrick’s goddaughter, details his fascinating life.
Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation
by Roderick Beaton
Undoubtedly the best history of Greece available. Setting out to understand the modern Greeks on their own terms, Beaton considers the extraordinary story of modern Greece, built over the last 300 years on the ruins of a vanished civilisation. Not simply a history of events but also of Greek culture, identity, people and ideas.
A World on Fire
by James Heneage
An epic tale set against the backdrop of Greek independence in 1824. The people of the Mani are rising up against Ottoman rule, heralding the arrival of the Sultan’s vassal, Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, to restore order. Only the intervention of France, Russia and Britain can save Greece. A heartbreaking love story that takes in the grand sweeping historical events of the time. Heneage is a Mani resident, Greek historian, Hellenophile, friend of The Slow Cyclist and founder of the Kardamyli Festival. His novel brings the history of the region to life.
Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor
edited by Adam Sisman
More from the great man. Letters spanning over seventy years with correspondents including Deborah Devonshire, Lawrence Durrell, Diana Cooper and his lifelong partner Joan Rayner. A fascinating insight into the magnetism, wit and unending lust for life that defined Leigh Fermor.
Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor
by Simon Fenwick
This riveting biography brings to centre stage Patrick Leigh Fermor’s lifelong companion, Joan Rayner. A talented photographer and intrepid traveller in her own right, Joan defied the social conventions of her time, carving out her own extraordinary path. She mixed with some of the leading lights of 1930s bohemia and like many of her wartime generation and her husband, lived life at full tilt.