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Patrick Leigh Fermor: A Life in Letters

Patrick Leigh Fermor: A Life in Letters

by Patrick Leigh Fermor, selected and edited by Adam Sisman

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Handsome, spirited, and erudite, Patrick Leigh Fermor was a war hero and one of the greatest travel writers of his generation. He was also a wonderful friend.

The letters in this collection span almost seventy years, the first written ten days before Paddy’s twenty-fifth birthday, the last when he was ninety-four, and the correspondents include Deborah Devonshire, Nancy Mitford, Lawrence Durrell, Diana Cooper, and his lifelong companion, Joan Rayner. The letters exhibit many of Fermor’s most engaging characteristics: his lust for life, his unending curiosity, his lyrical descriptive powers, his love of language, his exuberance, and his tendency to get into scrapes—particularly when drinking and, quite separately, driving.

Here are plenty of extraordinary stories: the hunt for Byron’s slippers in one of the remotest regions of Greece; an ignominious dismissal from Somerset Maugham’s Villa Mauresque; and hiding behind a bush to dub Dirk Bogarde into Greek during the shooting of Ill Met by Moonlight. The letters radiate warmth and gaiety; many are enhanced with witty illustrations and comic verse, while others contain riddles and puns. Every one of them entertains.adam sisman fermor

Additional Book Information

Series: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781681371566
Pages: 512
Publication Date:


To call Patrick Leigh Fermor just a travel writer is like calling Fred Astaire just a tap dancer; the description says nothing about the talent. His best-known book, A Time of Gifts, an account of his trip by foot through Europe from 1933 to 1934, published in 1977, glitters with acuity and wit. No wonder his letters are such gems to read, and in Patrick Leigh Fermor: A Life in Letters editor Adam Sisman does justice to a man who, right up until he died, at 96 in 2011, spun literature from his own adventurous life.
—Jim Kelly, Vanity Fair

Called Paddy by his legion of friends, Patrick Leigh Fermor struck many as a paragon of zest, a man on whom scarcely a crumb of life’s banquet was wasted. Prodigiously smart, charming, funny and handsome as well, he dazzled most who met him…. For all their beau monde glitter, Leigh Fermor’s letters are touching in a universally appreciable way.
—Ben Downing, Wall Street Journal

If letters are a lost art, you wouldn't know it from reading this lively collection… Fans of Fermor's travelogues will recognize incidents, and readers new to him will find this a good introduction. Recounting triumph and tragedy, these letters help round out a portrait of a writer who had long ago reconciled himself to a minor role in literary history—but who deserves a wide readership all the same.
Kirkus Reviews

Few people have lived as peripatetic a life as did travel writer Fermor. Even leaving aside the adventures that made his reputation—his walk from Holland to Istanbul and his activities during WWII as a resistance leader in Nazi-occupied Crete—he spent most of his life flitting from place to place….Through it all, he maintained a voluminous correspondence with a veritable who’s who of famous friends, including Diana Cooper, Lawrence Durrell, and Ann Fleming. His letters have a breezy, insouciant quality that’s charming….Above all, Fermor had a brilliant knack for capturing vivid details.
Publishers Weekly

Zestful, vivid, and buoyant with polymathic learning, Leigh Fermor’s letters reveal themselves perfect for anthology. There are descriptions and anecdotes equal to anything in his writing, spurred by memorable friendships, suffused with affection and occasional distress: all finely edited by Adam Sisman.
—Colin Thubron

Hugely entertaining, funny and occasionally moving...edited meticulously and brilliantly.
The Observer

Zest, verbal finesse, almost pristine receptivity and a richly informed cultural and historical consciousness make these letters, even when the erosions of time and illness shadow them, irresistibly exhilarating.
The Sunday Times

Adam Sisman is a model editor.... Reading these letters is like gobbling down a tray of exotically filled chocolates, with no horrible orange creams to put you off.
—Harry Mount, Literary Review

Adam Sisman’s selection of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s letters is entirely admirable . . . an unmissable feast.
Daily Telegraph

Here is a veritable feast for fans of Paddy Leigh Fermor . . . Sisman has done a tremendous job selecting and editing this treasure-trove of letters.
—Justin Marozzi, The Spectator

Superb . . . Adam Sisman has done an excellent job of selecting and editing these letters, almost any one of which would have been a joy to receive.
Times Literary Supplement

This is one of those books that make you feel a little bereft when you finish it.
Catholic Herald

To read these letters and their superb footnotes is to walk with some of the great ghosts of twentieth-century literature.

Oh joy! The wit, the humour, and the dazzling intelligence make this, for me, the most unputdownable book of the year.
Country Life

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