Called “the greatest poet of our age” by Louis Aragon, Yannis Ritsos is a poet whose writing life is thoroughly entwined with the contemporary history of his homeland. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this volume, a series of diaries-in-poetry Ritsos wrote between 1948 and 1950, during Greece’s Civil War, while a political prisoner first on the island of Limnos and then at the infamous camp on the desert island Makronisos. Even in these darkest of times, Ritsos dedicated his days to poetry, trusting in writing and in art as collective endeavors capable of fighting oppression, of bringing people together across distance and time. These poems offer glimpses onto the daily routines of prison life, the quiet violence he and his fellow prisoners endure, the ebbs and flows of the prisoners’ sense of solidarity, and the struggle to maintain humanity through language.
Winner of the 2014 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation.