Saturday, October 05, 2013

Drinks with Paddy

In spite of the title and its subject — the British traveler, wartime SOE operative, and writer Patrick Leigh Fermor — this little volume is thus far available only in Spanish, but hopefully an English-language version will be forthcoming soon.* The author, Dolores Payás, has translated several of Leigh Fermor's books into Spanish, and Drink Time! (En compañía de Patrick Leigh Fermor) is her affectionate memoir of her visits to his home in Greece, where he made his home for decades until his death in 2011. Paddy — that was what everybody called him, except some of the Greeks, for whom he retained the nom de guerre of Mihalis — was ninety-six when he died, but even at that advanced age he retained much of the eternal youthful optimism he possessed when he set out, as a teenager in 1935, to walk across Europe from the coast of Holland to Constantinople.

Fermor completed that journey, and would make two fine books, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, out of his adventures along the way, but he never quite got around to narrating the last leg of the journey. (The parts he did write, found among his papers, are being published, this year in the UK and next year in the US, as The Broken Road.) Why didn't he finish the task? Old age, perhaps, or perfectionism, or too many distractions — Payás suggests that if Paddy and his wife had chosen to settle in Crete, where he spent much of World War II, rather than in the Mani Peninsula, the partying Cretans would have kept him from writing anything at all. Because Fermor was no solitary; a prodigious autodidact, polyglot, and lover of books, he also cherished companionship, conversation, good food, and plenty of wine — the local Greek stuff by preference, no need for fancy French vintages — and to the end, even as his eyesight and hearing failed him, he served as an eager host to a steady stream of old friends and new-found acquaintances in his book-crammed, disorderly, but welcoming house above the sea. Dolores Payás, when she visited, knew that every day, invariably, a knock would come at the door where she was working, and Leigh Fermor would cheerfully summon her time for drinks and conversation. It was an invitation few would have wanted to refuse.

*One has been issued by Bene Factum Publishing.

No comments: