Yannis Ritsos (Γιάννης Ρίτσος)


Born to a well-to-do landowning family in Monemvasia, Ritsos suffered great losses as a child. The early deaths of his mother and eldest brother from tuberculosis, his father's struggles with a mental disease, and the economic ruin his family marked Ritsos and affected his poetry. Ritsos himself was confined in a sanatorium for tuberculosis from 1927–1931.

In August 1936, the right-wingdictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas came to power and Epitaphios was burned publicly at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. Ritsos responded by taking his work in a different direction: he began to explore the conquests of surrealism through thedomain of dreams, surprising associations, explosions of images and symbols, a lyricism illustrative of the anguish of the poet, and both tender and bitter souvenirs. During this period Ritsos published The Song of my Sister (1937) and Symphony of the Spring (1938).

During the Axis occupation of Greece (1941–1945) Ritsos became a member of the EAM (National Liberation Front) and authored several poems for the Greek Resistance. These include a booklet of poems dedicated to the resistance leader Aris Velouchiotis, written immediately upon the latter's death on 16 June 1945.[3]Ritsos also supported the Left in the subsequent Civil War (1946-1949); in 1948 he was arrested and spent four years in prison camps. In the 1950s 'Epitaphios', set to music by Mikis Theodorakis, became the anthem of the Greek Left.


In 1967 he was arrested by the Papadopoulos dictatorship and sent to a prison camp in Gyaros.

Today, Ritsos is considered one of the five great Greek poets of the twentieth century, together with Konstantinos Kavafis,Kostas Kariotakis, Giorgos Seferis, and Odysseus Elytis. The French poet Louis Aragon once said that Ritsos was "the greatest poet of our age." He was unsuccessfully proposed nine times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. When he won theLenin Peace Prize (also known as the Stalin Peace Prize prior to 1956) he declared "this prize is more important for me than the Nobel."

His poetry was banned at times in Greece due to his left wing beliefs.

Notable works by Ritsos include Tractor (1934), Pyramids (1935), Epitaph (1936), and Vigil (1941–1953).

One of his most important works is Moonlight Sonata:

I know that each one of us travels to love alone,
alone to faith and to death.
I know it. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t help.
Let me come with you.
—from Moonlight Sonata. Translation by Peter Green and Beverly Bardsley

Ritsos is also a Golden Wreath Laureate of the Struga Poetry Evenings for 1985.

His daughter, Eri, was a candidate for the European Parliament with KKE in the elections of 25 May 2014.