Yannis Ritsos

Yannis Ritsos was born in 1909 at Monemvasia in the southern Peloponnese, into a family marked by disease and early death. He himself was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of eighteen. A lifetime communist, his unpretentious, memorable poems were a prominent feature of his active resistance to the German occupation of Greece and to a succession of fascist regimes. They led to the public burning of his lament Epitaphios in 1936 by the Metaxas dictatorship, and to his imprisonment during the Civil War from 1948-1952 and again during the 1967 dictatorship of the Colonels. He was transferred from this imprisonment to island exile on Samos when he became dangerously ill, and was allowed to return to Athens and to be published again in 1971. He was awarded the prestigious Lenin Prize in 1975 and received honorary degrees from the universities of Thessaloniki, Birmingham, Leipzig, and Athens. During his highly productive life he worked as an actor, dancer, book editor, calligrapher, and author of over eleven volumes of translations. His more than one hundred volumes divided between long meditations on historical themes and short enigmatic reflections on everyday events have been translated into over forty languages in more than three hundred editions. He also published three volumes of plays and four books of essays. He died in November 1990, aged eighty-one.

Get the Free Speech News You Need

protesters in face masks carrying old Belarusian national flags

PEN America has a new weekly newsletter, PEN Points, bringing you a digest of the biggest free expression news of the week, plus the analysis and insights you trust from PEN America experts.