33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
A world of wonders,
This review is from: Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (John Murray Travel Classics) (Paperback)
MANI ... It is not for nothing that Patrick Leigh Fermor is generally considered the greatest living travel writer in English. Reading any one of his books, always a smooth, elegant and intellectually exciting undertaking, is to accept an invitation to the private world of a master observer of places and manners who is also pretty sharp in such areas of human endeavor as history, architecture, music, theology, psychology, mythology, and languages both classical and modern. He is extremely erudite - an autodidact, he says - and his approach to travel writing is strictly literary and sometimes sublimely so. This book, doubtless conceived as a companion volume to ROUMELI, which deals with Northern Greece, takes us to the southernmost part of the Peloponnesus. Unfortunately, the world of rocks and rustics and supreme beauty it describes is now largely vanished, so it is therefore of great value to have a traveler's vision and memory of it as it was about sixty years ago. Always subtle and elegant, the story takes on a heightened aesthetic and intellectual intensity at certain points and in particular locales. For example, the opening paragraph of the book's final chapter describes the writer's arrival at Gytheio by means of an extended metaphor comparing entrance into a city with the act of coitus, and if any reader should miss this metaphor let me point out the author's use of such words as maidenhead and deflower. A further adornment of the metaphor, conceptual and literary, is provided by the revelation that the little island a few yards off the coast, now named Marathonisi and now connected to Gytheio by a causeway, but called Kranae by Homer, is in fact the island where Paris and Helen spent their fist night after the famous elopement. At another point the reader is invited to watch the dolphins scull down at exactly the imaginary line in the Adriatic where the filioque drops out of the creed. We are allowed to eavesdrop on a group of centaurs on the Pelion Peninsula, and a passing reference to Henry Miller and George Katsimbalis develops into a chain reaction of crowing roosters around the world and back again. There s an excellent chapter on the peculiar little village of Areopolis, the gateway to the Inner Mani, where the author attempts an interpretation of the ancient carvings on churches and houses. This marvelous book will be of interest to anyone who feels attracted to the beauties of Greece and its people, but also to those who enjoy supremely well-written prose.