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This review is taken from PN Review 96, Volume 20 Number 4, March - April 1994.

THE OUTNUMBERING DEAD YANNIS RITSOS, The Fourth Dimension, translated and introduced by Peter Green and Beverly Bardsley (Anvil Press Poetry) £14.95

His sufferings under right-wing dictatorship, the accessible humanity of his writing, and his astonishing productivity made Yannis Ritsos a living legend. What fills his work and makes him a great writer is his tireless, wide-ranging responsiveness, curious, friendly, tender, passionate, pitying or appalled, to the life of the world around him.

The Fourth Dimension is a collection of seventeen dramatic monologues written between 1956 and 1975. Five are unequivocally set in modern Greece. The speakers of the rest are archetypal characters of Attic tragedy, presented in settings which fuse ancient and modern worlds, blending events of myth with those of Ritsos's own life. The broad coherence of the work's themes and images, atmospheres and emotions, is obvious from the start, as is the arrangement of pieces in a developing sequence. I don't want to overstate the level of unity achieved: it's of a loose, associative or symbiotic kind. Each monologue has its individual integrity. That said, the publishers and translators have performed a vital service in giving us The Fourth Dimension as the whole that Ritsos himself made of it. One's response to each monologue is deepened and powerfully enhanced by reading it in the larger context, and the sequence as a whole is beautifully rounded off by its visionary conclusion.

As the title suggests, the volume is dominated by themes relating to time. Processes of age, attrition and decay, a sense of the smothering weight of the past and pain at lost life are ...


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