Patrick Leigh Fermor

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s ‘Swish! Swish! Swish!’ was originally written for the Greek edition of Mani (1958), and appeared first in the LRB in 2021.

Swish! Swish! Swish! The Mani Olive Harvest

Patrick Leigh Fermor, 29 July 2021

Everything gathers here. Animals stamp and neigh and collide and rear, swift hands disentangle them; strong backs are bent double under the sacks. Greetings are shouted and gossip has to be exchanged in voices of thunder to overcome the din of the engine and the roar of the great turning stones. Each peasant watches his cataract of olives poured into the wooden jaws; and when at last the pale jade-green jet of the first oil gushes from the spout below, he dips into it a piece of bread and munches it, feeling the happiest of mortals. These are private and local scenes, cut off from the outside world. Everyone who doesn’t belong here has fled long ago, at the same time as the swallows. (Not quite everyone, or these lines would not be being written.) One morning there is a confetti of snow on the high peaks of the Taygetus; in a day or two they are an unbroken white, a dazzling background to the oranges with which the village trees are now heavy. The harvesting goes on through the winter solstice until the cut twigs and branches cover the ground and choke the lanes.

The first book ended with ‘To be continued’. The second with ‘To be concluded’. But the third book of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s famous walk from the Hook of Holland to...

Read More

‘In the language and manners of every Greek sailor and peasant the classical scholar will constantly recognise phrases and customs familiar to him in the literature of Ancient...

Read More

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

‘I am assuming,’ Paul Fussell said in Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars (1980), ‘that travel is now impossible and that tourism is all we have left.’ To...

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences