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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

THE MARBLE HEAD Takis Sinopoulos, Selected Poems, translated by John Stathatos (Oxus Press) £3.50
Yannis Ritsos, Subterranean Horses, translated by Minas Savvas (Ohio University Press) £6.60, £4.20-pb


Greece has been travelling for years within Greece.
Greece has been travelling for years among the murderers.


These lines of Sinopoulos introduce one of the two chief themes of modern Greek poetry: like the Atrid house, Greece labours under a curse that dooms it to generation after generation of parricide, of fratricide, of tearing at its own bowels. This defining contour of consciousness is not separable from the other dominant preoccupation so eloquently expressed in George Seferis' poem, 'I woke this morning with this marble head in my hands. . .'. The doom of mutual self-slaughter is inevitably expressed-notably in the films of Angelopoulos, but earlier in Kazantzakis, and even in Elytis and Sinopoulos-in terms of the curses that weighed on the legendary families of ancient Greece. It is as if the attempt to escape the shadow of the ineluctable paradigm of the classical past would lead too to reconciliation in contemporary politics.

Both Ritsos and Sinopoulos devote much of their writing to coming to terms with this twin burden. Sinopoulos is the simpler writer, a survivor during the years of the Colonels, a critic-journalist and a prominent figure in Athenian literary politics. His merits are his uncommon clarity of language-always a hard achievement in demotic Greek, lacking as it does any long tradition of writing, and besieged on all sides by the artificialities of the formal katbarevousa-which presents events of intense meaning and emotion with naked vividness. The technique ...


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