Patrick Leigh Fermor died yesterday at the age of 96. You can read about his amazing life in this Telegraph obit (where you will find the story of Fermor, General Kreipe, and Horace’s ode, among much else); I want to celebrate his enthusiasm for odd historical-ethnic tidbits and his way with English prose, by providing a delicious excerpt from his 1958 book Mani—I’m pretty sure it was this passage that hooked me when I was flipping through the book and forced me to buy it (a purchase that soon led to my buying his follow-up, Roumeli):
And yet the Greek world, with all its absorptions and dispersals and its Odyssean ramifications, is an inexhaustible Pandora’s box of eccentricities and exceptions to all conceivable rule. I thought of the abundance of strange communities: the scattered Bektashi and the Rufayan, the Mevlevi dervishes of the Tower of the Winds, the Liaps of Souli, the Pomaks of the Rhodope, the Kizilbashi near Kechro, the Fire-Walkers of Mavrolevki, the Lazi from the Pontic shores, the Linovamvaki—crypto-Christian Moslems of Cyprus—the Dönmehs—crypto-Jewish Moslems of Salonika and Smyrna—the Slavophones of Northern Macedonia, the Koutzo-Vlachs of Samarina and Metzovo, the Chams of Thesprotia, the scattered Souliots of Roumeli and the Heptanese, the Albanians of Argolis and Attica, the Kravarite mendicants of Aetolia, the wandering quacks of Eurytania, the phallus-wielding Bounariots of Tyrnavos, the Karamanlides of Cappadocia, the Tzakones of the Argolic gulf, the Ayassians of Lesbos, the Francolevantine Catholics of the Cyclades, the Turkophone Christians of Karamania, the dyers of Mt. Ossa, the Mangas of Piraeus, the Venetian nobles of the Ionian, the Old Calendrists of Keratea, the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Thasos, the Nomad Sarakatzáns of the north, the Turks of Thrace, the Thessalonican Sephardim, the sponge-fishers of Calymnos and the Caribbean reefs, the Maniots of Corsica, Tuscany, Algeria and Florida, the dying Grecophones of Calabria and Otranto, the Greek-speaking Turks near Trebizond on the banks of the Of, the omnipresent Gypsies, the Chimarriots of Acroceraunia, the few Gagauzi of eastern Thrace, the Mardaïtes of the Lebanon, the half-Frankish Gazmouli of the Morea, the small diasporas of Armenians, the Bavarians of Attic Herakleion, the Cypriots of Islington and Soho, the Sahibs and Boxwallahs of Nicosia, the English remittance men of Kyrenia, the Basilian Monks, both Idiorrhythmic and Cenobitic, the anchorites of Mt. Athos, the Chiots of Bayswater and the Guards’ Club, the merchants of Marseilles, the cotton-brokers of Alexandria, the ship-owners of Panama, the greengrocers of Brooklyn, the Amariots of Lourenço Marques, the Shqip-speaking Atticans of Sfax, the Cretan fellaheen of Luxor, the Elasites beyond the Iron Curtain, the brokers of Trieste, the Krim-Tartar-speaking Lazi of Marioupol, the Pontics of the Sea of Azov, the Caucasus and the Don, the Turcophone and Armenophone Lazi of southern Russia, the Greeks of the Danube Delta, Odessa and Taganrog, the rentiers in eternal villaggiatura by the lakes of Switzerland, the potters of Syphnos and Messenia, the exaggerators and the ghosts of Mykonos, the Karagounides of the Thessalian plain, the Nyklians and the Achamnómeri of the Mani, the little bootblacks of Megalopolis, the Franks of the Morea, the Byzantines of Mistra, the Venetians and Genoese and Pisans of the archipelago, the boys kidnapped for janissaries and the girls for harems, the Catalan bands, the Kondaritika-speaking lathmakers of the Zagarochoria, the Loubinistika-speakers of the brothels, the Anglo-Saxons of the Varangian Guard, ye olde Englisshe of the Levant company, the Klephts and the Armatoles, the Kroumides of Colchis, the Koniarides of Loxada, the smugglers of Aï-Vali, the lunatics of Cephalonia, the admirals of Hydra, the Phanariots of the Sublime Porte, the princes and boyars of Moldowallachia, the Ralli Brothers of India, the Whittals of Constantinople, the lepers of Spinalonga, the political prisoners of the Macronisos, the Hello-boys back from the States, the two pig-roasting Japanese ex-convicts of Crete, the solitary negro of Canea and a wandering Arab I saw years ago in Domoko, the Chinese tea-pedlar of Kolonaki, killed in Piraeus during the war by a bomb—if all these, to name a few, why not the crypto-Jews of the Taygetus?
I still find that passage irresistible all these years later, and my copy is marked up with enough interlinear pencil commentary to show that I keep going back to it as I acquire new sources of information; to fully understand all its allusions, you’d have to be Fermor himself.