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Reviews 183 Ioannou on one page. Bien's annotations, maps, and particularly his discussion of the context of the novel's title, are of inestimable assistance to the non-Greek reader. Peter Mackridge University of Oxford Yannis Ritsos. Monovasia and The Women of Monemvasia. Translated with an introduction by Rimon Friar and Rostas Myrsiades. Minneapolis : Nostos Books. 1987. Pp. xii + 67. $20.00. A great deal in the more than 150 volumes of Yannis Ritsos' published poetry attests powerfully to the fact that Monemvasia (Monovasia in the demotic), a smaU island-promontory off the southeastern shore of the Peloponnesus which was his birthplace and home until he was twelve, has not only shaped his Greek soul but has also been a permanent and inexhaustible source of power and inspiration for him. It is the deep emotional nucleus around which much of his creativity developed, and to which he returned for solace and restoration in times of crisis. However dire the experience, no matter what his ideological and militant commitments and adventures and the high prices paid for them, that native "Rock" was there to remind him of his ethical and spiritual foundations, of his tradition as a means of self-recovery, and to lend him the elements and strength for some of his best and happiest accomplishments. The two poems translated in Friar and Myrsiades volume stand out in terms both of quality and of significance within Ritsos' entire corpus. They were written simultaneously: Monovasia was composed in parts first while Ritsos was in Monemvasia itself, then while in Rarlovasi and Samos (his summer home), and then again while in Monemvasia (September 1974 to September 1976). The Women of Monemvasia was composed in two days of August 1975. Together they form a diptych of the poet's approach to his origins—a physical contemplative and emotional nostos, a crowning return to his roots—taken on in his advanced age, as if to complete his life's circle. I call the two poems a diptych for what they have in common and for the differences and contrasts between them in terms of their technique, style, manner of approach as well as the spirit that inspires each poem. The Women of Monemvasia is single and unified, musically flowing in the richness of its word, image and feeling, and limpidly 184 Reviews clear in its concreteness and symbolism. It is traditional in its praise of the women of that island (and of Greece altogether) in their wide variety of time and age, of activities, of tools and utensils, roles and functions. These women have been the mothers, creators, builders, shapers, developers and heroic defenders of their land's tradition, its value and beauty throughout the ages. The whole poem springs from the heart behind the poet's perceiving, affectionate and grateful eye and the wealth of historical and personal memory. These women have their symbolic embodiment in the ever-moving vivacity and the fluidity of the sea embracing their native Rock. Monovasia, in contrast, is a poem of the contemplative mind digging, searching, doubting, wondering, weighing and re-weighing its discoveries in order eventually to reach beyond the factual, the physical and the apparent. It is essentially and technically a modern poem where the poet's inquiring chisel beats the hard Rock of his origins, the Rock of the past, of history, of time, of manliness and heroism, in fact of life itself in its universality, and pierces the Rock chip by chip to make it reveal (albeit in fragments) the deeper and lasting truth it contains. The 36 individual short poems are these chips; fragments of quest and discrete revelation which form no clear unity and sequence except in terms of what internal, suggestive progress they achieve, often surrealist in its expression. The words and images are simple, common, highly economical and curt, and being drawn from the Greek language, nature and life, they carry deeper significance in their symbolic extensions. The content of both Monovasia poems vary considerably. There are references and short accounts of chronicled and legendary events of the past ("the ancient acquaintance, the uninterrupted. / Profound time, paid for" p. 4), as well as attempts and efforts to "ascent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 183-185
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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