Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
The Cretan RunnerHis story of the German Occupation
by George Psychoundakis, translated from the Greek and with an introduction by Patrick Leigh Fermor
George Psychoundakis was a twenty-one-year-old shepherd from the village of Asi Gonia when the battle of Crete began: “It was in May 1941 that, all of a sudden, high in the sky, we heard the drone of many aeroplanes growing steadily closer.” The German parachutists soon outnumbered the British troops who were forced first to retreat, then to evacuate, before Crete fell to the Germans. So began the Cretan Resistance and the young shepherd’s career as a wartime runner. In this unique account of the Resistance, Psychoundakis records the daily life of his fellow Cretans, his treacherous journeys on foot from the eastern White Mountains to the western slopes of Mount Ida to transmit messages and transport goods, and his enduring friendships with British officers (like his eventual translator Patrick Leigh Fermor) whose missions he helped to carry out with unflagging courage, energy, and good humor.
Includes thirty-two black-and-white photographs and a map.
Psychoundakis was able to master challenges that would stagger an Olympic athlete: he could scramble snowy cliffs with a sixty-pound pack on his back, run fifty-plus miles through the night on a starvation diet of boiled hay, and outfox a Gestapo death squad that had him cornered.
Psychoundakis’s effortlessly poetic account reflected a passionate love of his homeland and its people, a geologist’s and botanist’s eye, chortling bemusement at the habits of the upper-class British agents, and deep comradeship with his fellow resistance fighters.
—Simon Steyne, The Guardian
There have been other memoirs of wartime Crete but those were visitors’ books. George’s story, as Leigh Fermor points out in the introduction, is unique.
Any fresh volume on the subject would need to be exceptional. The Cretan Runner not only competes but transcends; it is not exceptional, it is unique.
—The Times Literary Supplement
The book has at once a calm of a race which takes it for granted that life is full of death, and the excitement of a fighter who wildly enjoys his own part of the dangerous business. It is full of jokes and full of pride.
—The Sunday Times
But now Psychoundakis’s style seems the fresher, a scrappy, honest account of a temporary alliance with, and allegiance to, an external force in order to rid Crete of its occupiers. And with all the frustrations, disagreements, misunderstandings and damaged pride, as well as boozy parties and heroism, that entailed.
—Vera Rules, The Guardian