The Fourth Dimension

Yannis Ritsos, Author, Peter Green, Translator, Beverly Bardsley, Translator
Yannis Ritsos, Author, Peter Green, Translator, Beverly Bardsley, Translator Princeton University Press $28.95 (348p) ISBN 978-0-691-02465-3
Reviewed on: 05/17/1993
Release date: 05/01/1993
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Written during the 1950s and 1960s, this volume is a prominent Greek poet's response to Euripides and other classic tragedians. Complex yet fascinating, it consists of 17 ``sustained dramatic soliloquies'' that present contemporary men and women who seem to inhabit the bodies of mythological figures: Agamemnon, Orestes, Persephone, Ajax, Electra and Phaedra. As in classic drama, each monologue begins and ends with a brief prose passage, setting the scene and recounting what happens after the speaker has exited. Detailed and vivid descriptions of people and places make the poems' mythological present seem a visionary future. Figures who died tragic deaths to fulfill legend are given new life, only to laugh at those who thought them dead. What is the past? all these speakers seem to ask, and the poet answers in the voice of Iphigenia: ``Murders, expeditions, reprisals, sunken ships, ruined regimes.'' Concise notes at the back of the volume remind us who these mythical figures are, show how they've been used in other literature and point out Ritsos's ( Selected Poems 1938-1988 ) often far-fetched groupings. While previous volumes of Ritsos's work have been rendered into English by such esteemed translators as Edmund Keely, two relatively unknown translators here take on this magnum opus and do an excellent job. (Aug.)
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