Constantine P. Cavafy

Poet (1863 – 1933)

Constantine Cavafy was a poet and writer, widely regarded as one of the greatest of his time. Born in Alexandria to a Greek family of Constantinopolitan descent, Cavafy influenced modern Greek literature enormously, and is hailed to this day as a literary genius. With a collection spanning 154 poems, essays and proses, he remains the most translated modern Greek writer, with his works translated in over 15 languages.

As a youth, Cavafy lived in Constantinople and England before settling in Alexandria, where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked in the public sector, lived an unusually closed life with small social interactions and refused to publish his works openly on magazines or book forms, instead distributing them privately among friends and relatives. Nevertheless, this did not hinder him from becoming the greatest spiritual figure of Alexandria of his time. Throughout his lifetime, he garnered significant attention as a pioneer poet and was visited in his home in Alexandria by several fans, most notably Nikos Kazantzakis, who called him “one of the last flowers of a civilization”.

Traditionally, Cavafy’s works are divided into 3 groups according to the maturity of his age at which they were written. They are also classified into philosophic, erotic and historic. Hellenism and Hellenic history is a recurring theme in all of his poems. He expresses a Hellenism that is oecomenical in space and unscathed in time. Some of his most notable ones include Waiting for the Barbarians, Ithaca, The God Abandons Anthony, In Alexandria 31 B.C., Epitaph of Antiochos King of Comagene, Come O King of the Lacedaemonians, In the Boring Village, Thermopylae, Caesarion etc.

His work covers a vast array of philosophical and historical context closely associated with ancient Greek philosophy and history, blending facts with fiction in an effort to create a philosophical allegory of the present. What distinguished Cavafy from other laureates was his ability to articulate deep and most often philosophical meaning into his work without focusing primarily on the structure of the poem, such as in his acclaimed work The Windows.

Cavafy gave prominence to the Greek language as a whole by writing in an idiosyncratic style which aimed not at impressing the reader with his choice of verbs and adjectives but by challenging the reader to think and find the true meaning of the words. Therefore, his poetry focused on being didactic and exploring the Greek thought rather than impressing or evoking an emotional response. He was nominated a couple of times for the Nobel Prize of Literature and was a recipient of the Order of the Phoenix in 1926 by general Pangalos, the only form of recognition he ever received from his homeland. He died on the day of his birthday in 1933, aged 70.

Today, he is regarded unanimously as a master poet, a sage of the Greek letters with his work taught in universities all around the world, bringing the Greek language to the foreground once again.

Bibliography

  1. C.P. Cavafy – The Official Website of the Cavafy Archive. cavafy.com.Web.
  2. ”Kavafis, Konstantinos.” Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  3. ”Konstantinos Kavafis.” San Simera, (n.d.). Web. 7 Oct. 2015.
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Constantine P. Cavafy

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