I'm Reading: The Cretan Runner

Cover of The Cretan Runner

Not Cretin. Cretan. From Crete.

It’s a first-hand account of the resistance in Crete against the Germans in WWII.

The author (George Psychoundakis) was a “runner,” delivering information and people to and from pockets of resistance in the hills and mountains. Sometimes he’d guide people down to the shore where English submarines were waiting to help them escape. Sometimes he’d bring details of troop movements to British and Cretan guerrillas hiding out in caves.

It was dangerous, unpaid, and grueling.

What separates this account from others is that the author is a guy from a tiny village in the Cretan mountains. He’d never met an Englishman when they (as escaped prisoners of war, or stranded soldiers) started coming to his village needing to be hidden from the Germans.

In other words, it’s not a story about an Englishman who deals with uncouth and provincial hill people. It’s a story about a hill person who deals with strange and often unintelligible men from England, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

The author is literate, which was unusual in his world, and after the war he wrote about his experience. One of the British officers who helped run the resistance translated the book and got it published. It’s fascinating.

[By the way, the British officer is a famous author in his own right: Patrick Leigh Fermor.]

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