"Bringing Greek poetry to the far ends of the globe"

Jan 13, 2014 – apostaktirio.gr

By Alexander Akritidis

Link to original review (in Greek)

Having worked for over 20 years opposite the tobacco factories of western Salonica I don't hesitate to tell you that quite often I thought of Yannis Ritsos. This of course because it reminded me of a strike of these tobacco workers of the plant "Commercial" back in May of 1936, a strike that ended with violence and blood. It was the time when the great poet wrote his "Epitaphios", a sorrowful song of a mother, over the dead body of her son. It was inspired by a true story and a picture published in the local newspaper, image that shook the poet. "Epitaphios" became the voice of the people and a "protest" against the Metaxas dictatorship who branded Ritsos' poetry as dangerous and consequently they burned it.

Why do I mention all this...the last few days I received from Canada an unexpected gift. Manolis Aligizakis' latest achievement: Yannis Ritsos' poetry translated by Manolis. A book of selected poems presented in both Greek and English, a selection that covers a long span of the poet's creative life. The usefulness of this book is beyond questioning, as the English speaking Canadian reader, and not only, will have an easy access to most of this great poet's works.

And of course it isn't an easy job to have one translate the special personal style of a poet like Yannis Ritsos into another language. Another important point for the reader of these poems is that through them he'll come face to face with the very fabric of Greek society of those days. The customs, beliefs, behavior, acts of the people are displayed clearly in these poems: scenes from rural Greece from the traditional blend of a Greek family from the life of seamen and soldiers of another era. Poems such as "Old expiation" or "Avoiding answering" or "Disinterment" are clearly mirrors of everyday life. Images that make the immigrant remember of what he left behind, a country with all its positive and negative elements. Perhaps for this reason the success of this commendable effort by Manolis, although an always difficult task, is that through Ritsos' poetry he succeeds in bringing Greek poetry to the far ends of the globe.

We simply thank him for congratulate him for his effort.

Alexander Akritidis / Writer, University Graduate with a Diploma in Humanities

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