On the morning of 20 May 1941, the Nazis launched an airborne invasion of the Greek island of Crete. Despite fierce opposition from the local population, within 10 days the island was taken. The Nazis exacted heavy reprisals which served only to foment one of the most determined campaigns of resistance of the entire war. A 21-year-old humble ‘mountain boy’, George Psychoundakis, was one of the local partisans who helped the small covert British force that remained on the island. The Cretan Runner is his extraordinary account of the years he spent couriering messages, smuggling arms and guiding Allied soldiers across Crete’s rugged, often treacherous mountain terrain.
Danger was everywhere, the threat of capture constant. From the start, Psychoundakis was helping marooned Allied personnel reach the coast for evacuation. He describes his involvement in a sudden skirmish with a detachment of German and Italian soldiers; and his role in the mission headed by W. Stanley Moss and Patrick Leigh Fermor to abduct Major-General Kriepe – a tale vividly recounted in Ill Met By Moonlight. There are lighter moments too – a furlough in Egypt and Palestine becomes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the shepherd to play tourist.
Leigh Fermor had grown close to Psychoundakis during the war and he returned to Crete in 1952. Having read his friend’s manuscript, he knew it had to be published. Leigh Fermor translated it himself, preserving Psychoundakis’s engaging, fast-paced style and his wry, often fatalistic humour. His introduction sheds light on the warm, sometimes volatile relationship between partisans and operatives. Illustrated with photographs from Leigh Fermor’s private collection, some of which are published here for the first time, The Cretan Runner is the most immediate and exhilarating account we have of wartime resistance. Also included in this Folio edition is a previously unpublished letter from Leigh Fermor to the Academy of Athens urging recognition for Psychoundakis’s literary achievements, including his translation of Homer’s Odyssey from Ancient to Cretan Greek.
Review by auwong on 21st Apr 2013
"Such a delightful read, artless and authentic, filled with adventure. Generous lot of photos and supplentary material in this edition. Folio's edition is gorgeous and displays well (especially the s..." [read more]
Review by anon on 15th Jun 2012
"Surprisingly engaging. The subject had only small appeal, but as Folio books have reliably been as found gems, I gave it a try. Once again, Folio has done an excellent job in all aspects of selecting..." [read more]