Definitions

Cavafy

Cavafy

[kah-vah-fee]
Cavafy, Constantine, pseud. of Konstantínos Pétrou Kaváfis, 1863-1933, Greek poet. Born in Alexandria, Egypt, he spent most of his life there, but lived for about five years in England. Although he published little, only about 150 poems, he is regarded as one of the foremost modern Greek poets and one of the finest poets of the 20th cent. Cavafy is particularly noted for the rueful, elegiac, and yet utterly unsentimental tone of his verse. In it, he mingles vernacular and literary language, skillfully combining the exalted with the mundane. Skeptical and nonconformist, he was critical of Christian and nationalistic morality and was one of the first to write openly about homosexual love. He also was obsessed with the ancient Greek and Byzantine past, and that history (and characters from it) frequently appear in his poetry. Among his best-known poems are "The City," "Waiting for the Barbarians," and "The God Abandons Antony." Cavafy was introduced to an English readership in 1919 by E. M. Forster, and has since become a favorite of English-language poets. His Collected Poems have been published in a number of English translations.

See translations by R. Dalven (1961), E. Keeley and P. Sherrard (1975, rev. bilingual ed. 2009), and D. Mendelsohn (2009); memoir and translations by M. Kolaitis (1980); biography by R. Liddell (1974, repr. 2002); studies by K. Kapre-Karka (1982), G. Jusdanis (1987), and J. P. Anton (1995).

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