Yannis Ritsos was born in Monemvasia in the Greek Peloponnese in 1909. As a young man he became a communist and his long career was marked by the travails of the Greek Left: proscription, imprisonment, internal exile. He was one of Greece’s most prolific twentieth- century writers, publishing extensive collections of poetry alongside novels and plays. He wrote Homeland: Eighteen Bitter Songs in 1968-70, during the time of the Greek junta. Ritsos received the Greek First State Prize for Poetry in 1957 and the Lenin Peace Prize in 1977. He died in 1990 and is buried in the place of his birth.
David Harsent has published thirteen volumes of poetry. Legion won the Forward Prize for best collection; Night was triple short-listed in the UK and won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Fire Songs won the T.S.Eliot Prize. A new collection, Loss, appeared in January 2020. In Secret, Harsent’s versions of Yannis Ritsos, published in 2012, was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation.
‘In the tradition of Robert Lowell’s “Imitations”, these are versions of Ritsos by a major English poet. Yannis Ritsos, one of the most celebrated Greek poets of the 20th century, has at last found a “companion translator” who is up to the task.’
The Times Literary Supplement