Translator's notes

The Acrobat after Yannis Ritsos

By Yannis Ritsos

To say that Yannis Ritsos was prolific is seriously to understate the case. His lifetime’s output makes better than 5000 pages. This extraordinary productivity was achieved in the face of personal tragedy, persistent ill-health, and systematic persecution: first by the Metaxas regime when Ritsos’s books were burned in front of the Acropolis, next during the Greek Civil War when his allegiance to Communism led to internment, and then by the Papadopoulos military dictatorship when he was again imprisoned, almost certainly tortured, and subsequently sent to island prison camps. During his time in the camps he continued to write even though writing was a proscribed activity.

His short lyric poems, built on intensity and mood, are so pared-down that the story fragments we are given – the scene-settings, the tiny psychodramas – have an irresistible potency. He must be considered one of the finest poets of the last century.

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