Diaries of Exile

Overview

Yannis Ritsos is a poet whose writing life is entwined with the contemporary history of his homeland. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this volume, which presents a series of three diaries in poetry that Ritsos wrote between 1948 and 1950, during and just after the Greek Civil War, while a political prisoner first on the island of Limnos and then at the infamous camp on Makronisos. Even in this darkest of times, Ritsos dedicated his days to poetry, trusting in writing and in art as collective endeavors ...

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Diaries of Exile

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Overview

Yannis Ritsos is a poet whose writing life is entwined with the contemporary history of his homeland. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this volume, which presents a series of three diaries in poetry that Ritsos wrote between 1948 and 1950, during and just after the Greek Civil War, while a political prisoner first on the island of Limnos and then at the infamous camp on Makronisos. Even in this darkest of times, Ritsos dedicated his days to poetry, trusting in writing and in art as collective endeavors capable of resisting oppression and bringing people together across distance and time. These poems offer glimpses into the daily routines of life in exile, the quiet violence Ritsos and his fellow prisoners endured, the fluctuations in the prisoners’ sense of solidarity, and their struggle to maintain humanity through language. This moving volume justifies Ritsos’s reputation as one of the truly important poets in Greece’s modern literary history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Finalist for 2014 PEN Literary Award for Poetry in Translation

There is no pity in the book, nor resignation, despite the circumstance. That clarity ... has to do with giving witness, with the idea of poetry as testimony. Ritsos records the smallest moments, as if were he to leave out a single detail of his incarceration, the whole experience might disappear. This is what poetry can do: preserve the moments that would otherwise be forgotten, and in so doing, recreate the world. —LA Times

Ritsos' breath raises a wind in which wafted and swirled flakes from the crust of our land, seeds of its vegetation and sparks of its sky. Without Ritsos' eloquence, Greeks would have forgotten how to name a major part of all those things that are there before their eyes and restoration of his work to its totality is an imperative duty to the Greek nation itself, which deserves to regain its unity after nearly forty years of strife. —Pantelis Prevelakis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935744580
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 11/16/2012
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 502,040
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

One of Greece’s most prolific and widely translated poets, Yannis Ritsos (1909-1999) was born in Monemvasia. He lost his mother and an older brother to tuberculosis when he was young, and later contracted the disease himself. A lifelong, committed Communist, he fought in the Greek Resistance to the Axis occupation, sided with the Communists in the Greek Civil War, and subsequently spent years in detention centers and camps for political prisoners. The dictatorship of 1967-1974 landed him in internal exile yet again. Despite these many obstacles, Ritsos wrote more than a hundred volumes of poetry, plays, and translations. In 1976 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.

Karen Emmerich’s translations from the Greek include books by Margarita Karapanou, Amanda Michalopoulou, Ersi Sotiropoulos, and Vassilis Vassilikos. Her translations of Poems (1945-1971) by Miltos Sachtouris was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. She has received translation grants and awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Modern Greek Studies Association. She is on the faculty of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon.

Edmund Keeley is the Charles Barnwell Straut Professor of English Emeritus and the Director Emeritus of the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. His collaborative translations of the modern Greek poets, including C. P. Cavafy and the Nobel laureates George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis, received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, and his translations of Yannis Ritsos earned him the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets and the First European Prize for the Translation of Poetry. In 1999 he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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Read an Excerpt

October 27, 1948

There are so many thorns here –

brown thorns, yellow thorns all along the length of the day, even into sleep.

When the nights jump the barbed wire they leave tattered strips of skirt behind.

The words we once found beautiful faded like an old man’s vest in a trunk like a sunset darkened on the windowpanes.

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