Patrick Leigh Fermor in Bulgaria

by admin on 27 February, 2014

I’ve been intrigued by Bulgaria ever since reading Elizabeth Kostova’s marvelous novel The Historian. These evenings I’m reading The Broken Road, a book I’ve been waiting for for decades. It’s been decades since I read the first two books in Fermor’s trilogy, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, so when I review  The Broken Road for The Historical Novel Review (they also review nonfiction of interest to historical fiction fans), I won’t compare.

Balasha Cantacuzene Balasha Cantacuzene Patrick Leigh Fermor PLF

The book’s introduction lays out how PLF continued his detour from the straight and narrow in order to spend several years living with Romanian Phanariote princess Balasha Cantacuzene (maybe from the time he was 20 until he was 24). He’d already begun that detour, of course, with his long walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, that is, from the west of Netherlands to Istanbul. It was decades later when he wrote the account of the walk, sans the notebooks he took at the time. It was all from memory, an amazing memory but one enriched by the older Fermor’s perspective.

His dashing, romantic life almost predictably then had a chapter in Crete during the war when he fought the Nazis there as part of a undercover group of saboteurs. 

Rila-Monastery-2Back to Bulgaria. Here’s the Rila Monastery, where “Paddy” spent several hangover-inducing partying nights (the purpose of monasteries in this part of the world, he explains) with a young Greek-Bulgarian girl, Nadedja, nearly his twin in age.

One of PLF’s attractions is his obvious love for women. He loves women and women love him. He is marvelously restrained in the details of relationships; I remember just one occasion in one of the earlier books where he pretty obviously bedded a young woman, maybe a gypsy, by a spring riverbank. Or perhaps a field of poppies.

And of course he was great friends with Ian Flemming, Bond’s creator.

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