The subtitle of this book is a little misleading for it is hardly a travelogue, more of an excuse to roam - philosophically, mythologically, historically, anthropologically - with a hundred and one red herrings using the Mani as a useful backdrop.
The Mani is the central tine or peninsular of the Southern Peloponnese where the Taygetus mountain range dies down into the sea. From reading these pages you might assume this area to be all but continental in size; fortunately a map with a scale is included and it will be noticed that the Deep Mani, about which this work is chiefly concerned, measures barely 20 miles down with an average width of six.
Not everyone will find this opus their ideal cup of Lapsang Souchong. I am thinking in particular of Chapter 13 on Gorgons and Centaurs where I all but fell asleep and surely the proof reader by page 182 had really keeled over ! To be quite frank I cannot share with PLF the same enthusiam for the more abstruse elements of Greek mythology and folklore. Nereids, sirens, gorgons, dryads, oreads, tritons, satyrs and the Evil Eye leave me cold - I would rather be discussing aspects of the limited slip differential of a vintage Jaguar XK150 ! However, there are plenty of other interesting digressions; one of the most fascinating concerned Eastern versus Western iconography where it is explained that while the first looks to the transubstantial quality of Christ Western Renaissance art focuses more on His human nature.
What is mind-stopping, as always, with PLF is the quality of his writing combined with the breadth of his knowledge. It never fails to amaze me how this school drop-out became such a distinguished man of letters, an authority on Greece, a multi-linguist par excellence, apart from achieving fame as a war-hero. Read this book for the sheer verve of its descriptive passages, its incomparable prose combined with an erudition any schoolmaster could envy. We are all in his debt for helping us to think more deeply about the world that surrounds us. Everything ultimately is grist to his mill; my own materialism need not be damned - what is certain is that PLF is always worth five stars.