Villaggio Mani
Photo of a Maniot village by sasix75 used under a Creative Commons license.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani (NYRB, 2006).

The Mani is the southernmost peninsula in Greece, cut off from the rest of the country by mountains and bounded by the Aegean and Ionian Seas. When Fermor traveled there in the 1950s, there was no road through the mountains, forcing him to get around by boat and foot. One could not ask for a better guide: Fermor has an encyclopedic knowledge of ancient history and languages and was a veteran of partisan campaigns in Crete during World War II. He is equally comfortable relating Byzantine history and visiting with Maniot peasants, and his Greece teems with ancient myths, Frankish castles, Byzantine ikons and Ottoman battlefields. First published in 1958, Mani has been reissued by NYRB. If you aren’t planning to visit Mani, this book will have you buying tickets.

Fermor describes seeing Mani for the first time, and later moving there. Ben Downing writes about Fermor in The New Criterion. Max Hastings profiles him in the Telegraph. Mary Beard reviews Mani and two of Fermor’s other books in the London Review of Books. Time reviewed Mani in 1960. Lettrice liked it, too. Heidi Fuller-Love rented a car to retrace Fermor’s steps. Diana Farr Lewis, in The Athens News, offers this primer on Mani. John Chapman offers an impressive guide and history of Mani. His bibliography has much to say about Fermor’s book. Robert Eisner traveled in Mani after reading Fermor. So did Paul Barker. And John Launer.

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