Reading in the Fourth Dimension

Michael Jeffreys


The story of the writing and publication of the poems of Yannis Ritsos mirrors the disturbed history of Greece.1 At the start of the Metaxas dictatorship (1936) Ritsos, after a long poetic apprenticeship disrupted by tuberculosis, had just begun serious publication. Later, his situation was always irregular. At worst, in concentration camps, writing was almost impossible and the preservation of his papers a nightmare (Makrynikola, 1993: 13-15). Sometimes he could publish nothing in Greece, at other times only lyrical and personal work: several "political"poems ftrst appeared abroad in translation. But he remained amazingly productive and so, when the dam of censorship burst. he could often bring out several collections at once. Reception of his work was also chaotic. Besides publishing delays, at different times his poems were burned and their reading and performance as songs were banned. The literary and academic establishment and the media largely ignored him for political reasons. Of the comments that were published, for or against, many may be deconstructed as mere ideological approval or disapproval (Veloudis, 1983: 120-8).

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