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Reviews 373 the most legitimate approach to understanding a writer's work. It is true that biographical narratives (e.g., Polylas's Prolegomena to Solomos's poetry) and autobiographical accounts (e.g., Seferis's political and personal diaries) are valuable because they document the βίος of die person in question. But inquiry into the βίος of a Greek writer should result not just in a narration of the individual's activities, as it does in Thaniel's book; nor should it examine die individual primarily as an "autonomous subject," as it has tended to do in Western cultural discourse. Rather, the individual's βίος and βίωμα (life and experience) should be seen as representative of the nation's. Thaniel would have done better to investigate Seferis along the lines that the poet himself encouraged in his own discussion of Makriyannis, whose βίος represented to him "a great part of the life of Hellenism" (ΔοκιμÎ-Ï‚, vol. 1, p. 341). Martha Klironomos McGiIl University Yannis Ritsos, The Fourth Dimension. Translated and with an introduction by Peter Green and Beverly Bardsley. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1993. Pp. xviii + 326. Cloth $45.00, paperback $14.95. With this translation of Yannis Ritsos's Fourth Dimension, readers of English now have access to an entire collection of poems as Ritsos himself composed and arranged them over a span of 22 years. The completeness of diis collection is important for two reasons. First, although Ritsos's poetry has known many excellent translators, his longer poems in particular have frequently been anthologized, removed from the contexts in which the poet placed them (e.g., Rae Dalven's 1977 Fourth Dimension, a Ritsos sampler which includes several poems from other collections; Kostas Myrsiades's and Kimon Friar's eloquent selections in Yannis Ritsos: Selected Poems 1938-1988). As a result, many Anglophone readers know Ritsos's "dramatic monologues" as so many disiecta membra. The Green-Bardsley translation marks a departure from these earlier translations in that it enables such readers to enjoy and study all 17 of these long dramatic poems in a coherent volume that itself constitutes a single epic-length poem. Secondly, this collection upholds the integrity of "die fourth dimension," which is time itself. The first four poems, set in apparently contemporary contexts, were written in the late 1950s. A dozen poems follow, composed between 1959 and 1975, all of which deal with mythological themes, especially the House of Atreus. Echoes of Aeschylus's Oresteia loom large in these pieces (and they have been astutely pointed out and analyzed in die George PilitsisPhilip Pastras translation and commentary, The New Oresteia of Yannis Ritsos [New York: Pella, 1991]). Ritsos also takes tiiematic inspiration from Sophocles ("Ismene," "Ajax") and Euripides ("Helen," "Phaedra"). Indeed, one wonders if Ritsos is presenting his own "fourth dimension" of these myths in the wake of the 374 Reviews three tragedians. The collection closes with "When the Stranger Comes," written in 1959 and, like the first four pieces, set in seemingly modern times. Placed within the "parentiieses" (to borrow another Ritsos title) of the contemporary monologues, the mythological poems assume a striking aspect. As the central, but not the only, part of the entire work, they present a poetic examination of the paradox that is the fourth dimension: time presents an omnipotent and ineluctable challenge to the human condition through change, stagnation, decay, and death, but this challenge is perpetually countered and resisted by the human spirit, which ever renews and resurrects itself, often arising from despair and death with a stronger and clearer sense of the meaning of life. Time emerges therefore as humanity's friend and also its foe: the power that it holds over us produces ever greater powers within us to resist it. Time, which weakens and destroys us, lies at the source of our strength. As the innumerable dead who have gone before us multiply, we the living take ever increased strength from their memory. Intermingled with the modern monologues as they are, the mythological poems become much more than reinterpretations of ancient myths. The anachronisms that jar the reader of the anthologized mythological poems (e.g., tour buses outside the lion gate of Mycenae, Agamemnon's ash tray, etc.) are in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 373-375
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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