Autumn Manuscripts by Tasos Leivaditis, trans. N. N. Trakakis
Tasos Leivaditis (1922–88) was one of the best-loved Greek poets of the twentieth century, part of the heroic generation of Communist poets that included Yiannis Ritsos, Nikiforos Vrettakos and Manolis Anagnostakis. The author of more than twenty books of poetry, many of his poems were set to music by his close friend Mikis Theodorakis. During the Second World War Leivaditis joined the Communist Partisans to fight against the Nazi Occupation of Greece. During the Civil War he was arrested and imprisoned on the islands of Lemnos, Makronisos and Agios Efstratios. Eventually released, he was charged in 1955 with ‘incitement to rebellion’ for writing subversive poetry. After the US-sponsored Fascist coup of 1967, he was forced to write under pseudonyms. But when Leivaditis died he was given a state funeral.
Autumn Manuscripts was Leivaditis’ last book, comparable to Brecht’s Buckow elegies, Aragon’s Les Adieux and Ritsos’ last poems. Published shortly after his death, it’s a book of sly fables and strange dreams, farewells and departures, migrating birds and autumn leaves, embers and ash. Reflecting on the political defeats of his generation, the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, the bitter divisions inside the Greek Communist Party and the wider demoralisation of the European left, Leivaditis contemplates the relationship between belief and doubt. ‘The old comrades have not died but reside now at the far end of the roads – whichever one you take you will run into them.’