October 24, 2019 at 16:00, in celebration of the OHI Day, the Branch of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture will present a photographic exhibition “110th Anniversary. Yiannis Ritsos (1909-1990)”. The opening ceremony will feature a literary and poetic performance about the life and work of the poet.
Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990) was a prominent Greek poet of the twentieth century, playwright, member of the anti-fascist Resistance of the National Liberation Front, winner of the International Lenin prize “For strengthening peace among peoples”, laureate of the Greek National Prize, Honorary Professor at the universities of Thessaloniki, Athens, Birmingham (England), and Leipzig (Germany), Honorary member of Académie Mallarmé (France). In 1986, Ritsos was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1987, the poet was awarded with the UN Prize and the Gold Medal of the municipality of Athens.
Greeks have been fond of poetry since the time of Ancient Greece and Byzantium, and even in the dramatic period of the Ottoman rule, the spring folk poetry stayed alive.
The struggle for independence and the Greek Revolution of 1821 gave birth to a galaxy of talented poets such as Dionysios Solomos, Kostis Palamas, Konstantinos Cavafy, Giorgos Seferis, Angelos Sikelianos and Kostas Varnalis. And Yiannis Ritsos was their worthy successor.
In 1934, there was published Ritsos’ first book of poems “Tractor”, in which his experiences of youth merged with thoughts about the hard life of the Greek people. The amalgamation of the personal and the civic became one of the characteristics of Ritsos’ poetry, while the other was his the appeal to the topical problems of his time. Social issues, patriotism, democratic tendencies and the philosophical content played an important role in his poetry.
His early poems show the desire to embrace the life of the world in all its contradiction. Over time, he also demonstrates gravitation to the inner world of a person living in an eventful world. His poetic language grows more complicated, he updates the expressive media, and his the poems get filled with philosophical reflections.
Ritsos’ poetry is characterized by concreteness and fusion of different beginnings – pessimism and optimism, darkness and light, life and death. Ritsos rejects traditional verse and introduces the principle of musical development of themes.
In the years of war and occupation, his books, which called for resistance and inspired faith in victory, were burned as dangerous for the fascist regime. His poems were recited by the students of the Polytechnic Institute during the uprising against the regime of “black colonels”. His books were popular among imprisoned patriots and members of the underground.
Yannis Ritsos is one of the few Greek poets of the twentieth century, who so deeply experienced and reflected in his work the dramatic and full of struggle history of the Greek people.
His poetry is deeply national and was, to the end of his life, faithful to the ideas of internationalism and committed to the left movement.
His works are rooted in the sonorous strings of the Greek myths, in the winding medieval streets of the native Byzantine town of Monemvasia, in the pre-war Athens and unexpected images of Greek surrealism.
The poet lived with his country almost a whole century, full of discoveries and cataclysms, including the World War II. His life of a poet went rather complex – from the revolutionary poems in the spirit of futurism influenced by foreign poets to the subtle symbolism in his late years.
Throughout his life, Ritsos sought to understand the philosophical and poetic terms of historical destinies of his motherland, to give a complex image of the difficult era full of contradictions and a fierce struggle.
In spite of persecution, exile, prison, serious illness, the literary career of Ritsos was extremely fruitful.
The exhibition presents the facts of the poet’s biography, publications of his books, poetic and dramatic works, plays etc. The opening ceremony will also feature screening of videos and reading of poems and passages from other Ritsos’ works, which reveal the full of struggles and victories life of a great modern Greek poet – Yiannis Ritsos.