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Patriotism saves the day


The remarkable Patrick Leigh Fermor
John Julius Norwich Writer
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[Q] Do you want to tell me something about your friend, Patrick Leigh Fermor?

Patrick Leigh Fermor, known to all as Paddy. Paddy was the most extraordinary man I think I've ever known in my life for sheer erudition, on the one hand, and fun, on the other. I've never known a man, I think, really, with such extraordinary energy and imagination and fantasy and knowledge about everything, particularly...  I first really got to know him... I'd met him on several occasions before, but he became a really bosom friend of my mother's. I mean, they corresponded. She was one of those three or four people that he corresponded with most. I've got endless letters. That pile over there is the second volume of his letters, which I've been going through, and the editor, Adam Sisman, is coming to pick them up this evening. I first really got to known him when we all went on a cruise. My mother was lent a little Greek caique, which was seating ten people, or not even I think, six. And this was in the late summer of 1955. I'd just arrived in Belgrade, but I managed to get a couple of weeks' leave. Anne and I drove down to Athens, Piraeus, and picked up this boat, and it was very small and pretty uncomfortable, but perfectly delightful. And Paddy and Joan were there, and two other great friends, Frank and Kitty Giles, and my mother and Anne and I. And we sailed for a fortnight around the Aegean. And it, I think it was one of the most informative and also formative fortnights of my life, because there was Paddy being huge fun, but also knowing absolutely... speaking bilingual Greek, of course, and talking about everywhere and talking about Greek life, talking about Greek history, talking about Byzantium, talking about the whole world. It was Paddy's world, really, and he talked about it magically and fascinatingly and gave me an insight into the Greek world, into the world of the Eastern Mediterranean, that has really changed my life. I mean, without it I think I would never have written three books on the history of Byzantium. I probably wouldn't have written my book on the Mediterranean. I don't know. But that's just a tribute to his knowledge and erudition.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Patrick Leigh Fermor

Duration: 3 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018