Ritsos is considered to be one of the four greatest Greek poets of the twentieth century, together with Kostis Palamas, Giorgos Seferis, and Odysseus Elytis. The French poet Louis Aragon once said that Ritsos was "the greatest poet of our age." He was unsuccessfully proposed nine times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. When he won the Lenin Peace Prize (also known as the Stalin Peace Prize prior to 1956) he declared "this prize it's more important for me than the Nobel".
Ritsos mainly wrote poems with political content, "serving communism with his art" as modern philologists describe. One of his few works that differ is Moonlight Sonata.
- I know that each one of us travels to love alone,
- alone to faith and to death.
- I know it. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t help.
- Let me come with you.
- —from Moonlight Sonata. Translation by Peter Green and Beverly Bardsley
Late Into the Night: The Last Poems of Yannis Ritsos, trans. Martin McKinsey (Oberlin College Press, 1995). ISBN 0-932440-71-1