Giannis Ritsos , the poet of peace


Giannis Ritsos (biography)


ØEarly life

Yiannis Ritsos was born on 1 May 1909 and he died on 11 November 1990 was a Greek poet and left-wing activist and an active member of the Greek Resistance during World War II. Born to a well-to-do landowning family in Monemvasia, Ritsos suffered great losses as a child. The early deaths of his mother and eldest brother and the economic ruin of losing his family marked Ritsos and affected his poetry. Ritsos himself was confined in a sanatorium for tuberculosis from 1927–1931.

ØLiterary start

In 1931, Ritsos joined the Communist Party of Greece. He maintained a working-class circle of friends and published Tractor in 1934. In 1935, he published Pyramidsthese two works sought to achieve a fragile balance between faith in the future, founded on the Communist ideal, and personal despair.The landmark poem Epitaphios, published in 1936, broke with the shape of Greek traditional popular poetry and expressed in clear and simple language a message of the unity of all people.


ØPolitical upheaval and the poet

    In August 1936, the right-wing dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas came to power and Epitaphios was burned publicly at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. Ritsos responded by taking his work in a different direction: exploring the conquests of surrealism through access to the domain of dreams, surprising associations, explosion of images and symbols, lyricism which shows the anguish of the poet, soft and bitter souvenirs. During this period Ritsos published The Song of my Sister (1937), Symphony of the Spring (1938).


Today, Ritsos is considered one of the five great Greek poets of the twentieth century. The French poet Louis Aragon once said that Ritsos was "the greatest poet of our age." He was unsuccessfully proposed nine times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. When he won the Lenin Peace Prize (also known as the Stalin Peace Prize prior to 1956) he declared "this prize is more important for me than the Nobel".

His poetry was banned at times in Greece due to his left wing beliefs.

Notable works by Ritsos include Tractor (1934), Pyramids (1935), Epitaph (1936), and Vigil (1941–1953).

One of his most important works is Moonlight Sonata:

I know that each one of us travels to love alone,

alone to faith and to death.

I know it. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t help.

Let me come with you.

·       from Moonlight Sonata.

 (Translation by Peter Green and Beverly Bardsley)





(Konstantina ,  Maryla , Eleni, Klaudia)

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