Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933)

Born on April 29, 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt, where he died on the same day in 1933, Konstantinos Petrou Cavafis is the leading poet of the region, who writes Greek poetry far from the Greek space. The body of his poems includes the 154 of the Cavafian canon - the so-called "Recognized" ones -, the 37 "Rejected", most of them youthful, in a romantic tone, the 75 "Hidden" found finished in his papers, as well as the 30 " Imperfect". His poems often star well-known historical figures or figments of the poet's imagination with frequent references to well-known or lesser-known aspects of Homeric, Hellenistic and Byzantine times. Today his poetry is a distinct pole in Greek literature, while it occupies a prominent position in the world literature.
Constantine P. Cavafy
The poet Constantine Cavafy was born in Alexandria, Egypt on April 17, 1863. The date changed to April 29 when the new calendar came into effect, and this is listed as the poet's birth date. Among other things, it coincides with April 29, 1933, the day of his death, thus creating a remarkable registry coincidence. During the 19th and until the middle of the 20th century, Greek settlements prospered in many Egyptian cities; the most populous was that of Alexandria. The poet's parents, Petros-Ioannis Cavafis and Chariklia, nee Georgakis Fotiadis, had a total of nine children, two of whom died in infancy – one of them was the only girl. Constantine was the ninth and last child. Petros-Ioannis Cavafis ran a prosperous trading house under the name of "Cavafis & Co", in which his brother George, settled in London, also participated. They traded wheat and cotton.

The financial prosperity of the family will not be maintained for long. The premature death of Petrou-Ioannis in 1870 obliged Chariclea to leave Alexandria and ask for support, for herself and her children, from her husband's brother in England. They initially lived in Liverpool and later in London. We do not have enough information about the poet's approximately five-year stay in England (1872-1877). It is understandable that he would attend school lessons and learn the English language. In 1877 Chariklia and her children returned to Alexandria, where Konstantinos will enroll in the "Hermes" Lyceum of Konstantinos A. Papazis, and will have friends and classmates, among them Mikes Rallis and Stefanos Skylitsis. Both died young. On the occasion of the death of Stefanos Skylitsis, Konstantinos composed one of his first poems ("To Stefano Skylitsis", 1886), while for Mike Ralli's illness and last days he has kept a kind of diary (1889).

In 1882 there was a military movement in Egypt, the British fleet intervened (the British would rule Egypt for the next seventy years), Alexandria was bombarded and the foreign residents began to leave the city. Among them is Chariklia, who this time is rushing to her parental home in Constantinople. This journey has been described by the poet in the form of a diary in the English language, under the title "Constantinopoliad –an epic". We have vague information about his three-year stay in Constantinople. At the same time, he wrote his first verse works in Greek and English, as well as encyclopedic prose. Around the end of 1885 the family returns to Alexandria, and Konstantinos is employed in various jobs. Over the next few years, successive deaths of family members will occur. In 1891 his brother (synonymous with Cavafy's father) Petros-Ioannis died, in 1899 his mother Chariclea, and his brothers George (1900), Aristides (1902), Alexandros (1905). During the 1920s, his other two brothers, Pavlos (1920) and John (1923), will also die. Thus, the poet remains the last survivor of the entire family. He got a steady job in 1892, when he was hired by the British-controlled Irrigation Service where he would work for thirty years. From 1908 until the end of his life, he will now live alone in the apartment at 10 Lepsius Street, which in October 1964 was renamed Sharm el Sheikhj and years ago it was renamed Cavafy Street.

During his life in Alexandria, his movements are minimal, both inside Egypt (Cairo) and abroad. In 1897 he took a two-month trip to Paris and London with his brother John. In the summer of 1901, he visited Athens for the first time, together with his brother Alexander, a trip for which he kept a diary in English, with typical details of what he saw, as well as of the people he met, such as Kimonas Michaelidis, editor of the Panathinaia magazine, the poet Ioannis Polemis, the painter Georgios Roilos, Grigorios Xenopoulos. He will then exchange letters with Xenopoulos who will publish in 1903 in Panathinaia the historically important article "A Poet". This is the first extensive study written on Cavafy's poetry in Athens. The poet will return to the Greek capital in 1905, in order to visit his hospitalized brother Alexander, who will eventually die the same year. Cavafy's last trip to Athens will take place in 1932 for health reasons.

His apartment on the second floor of what was then Lepsius Street would eventually become his usual meeting place with scholars from Alexandria, but also with his visitors from Greece. His unusual publishing tactics, some quirks of his character, as recorded by those who had associated with him, and his always sharp references to literary figures and books began to create a vague legend around his person. His public image acquired strong (sometimes distorting) characteristics from the descriptions of well-known writers and poets, Greek and foreign, who visited him, such as Nikos Kazantzakis, Myrtiotissa, Kostas Ouranis, the futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, E. M. Forster and other friends (and sometimes enemies) of his work recorded their conversations with Cavafy and transmitted them orally or in writing. From broadcasts of private conversations of this type, as well as from excerpts of related interviews, the public exchange of negative comments on both sides between Costi Palamas and Cavafy emerged, at a time when Cavafian poetry had begun to shake Palamas's empire. The recognition of the value of Alexandrinos was often accompanied by parodies (sometimes even malignant ones) aimed at Cavafy the man or at specific poems of his, a trend that after the poet's death expanded into a parodic satire of all kinds of subjects, thus confirming the thriving and lasting penetration of the verses in everyday life to this day.

During the first decades of the 20th century, alongside the commercial and economic activities of the Greeks of Egypt, a remarkable intellectual and artistic movement had developed in Alexandria and Cairo, with the main expression being the successive editions of all kinds of publications, books (even by Athenian authors). , satirical diaries and literary magazines (Serapion, Grammata, Nea Zoi, Propylaia, Panaygyptia, Argo, Phoinikas), which over time acquired pan-Hellenic influence. Cavafy's poems, as well as studies or comments on his work, not always positive and well-intentioned, will be found in all magazines. The peculiarity of his poetry, the idiosyncrasies of his character, and his lonely life in the Lepsius Street apartment without electricity and without a telephone constituted an exceptional case that deviated from the usual norms. With slow but steady rhythms his poetry began to spread both in the villages of Egypt and in the mainly Greek area and to acquire loyal admirers, but also fanatical opponents.

In 1886 his first texts were published. It is about the prose "The Korallion from a mythological point of view" in ep. Constantinople, and the poem "Bacchikon" in the Leipzig Epistle. Both, like several other poems and prose of his early years, he signed as Konstantinos F. Cavafys and later implicitly repudiated them. It was once argued that the intermediate Τ of his signature indicated a second baptismal name (Photios), a view that is rejected by his official baptism certificate, which mentions only one first name. It is most likely that it was a sign of respect and tribute to the person of Georgakis Fotiadis' maternal grandfather. Until the end of his life, he published prose and poems in newspapers, annual diaries and magazines of Alexandria, Leipzig, Constantinople, Cairo and Athens, without ever publishing a book. In several of these forms, we found answers from the magazines to the poet about the fate of poems that he occasionally submitted for publication, mainly during the first years of his public presence.

The peculiar publishing strategy that he followed throughout his life was established for the first time in 1892, when he independently printed the poem "Ktistai" on a single page, to be followed by four pages: "Teichi/My Walls" (bilingual edition, 1897), "Deisis" (1898) , "The Tears of the Brothers of Phaethon" and "The Death of the Emperor Tacitus", under the joint title "Ancient Days" (1898) and, finally, the eight-page poem "Waiting for the Barbarians" (1904). After these pamphlets, he collected reprints of his poems from various periodicals (or printed individual poems independently) and assembled bundles of poems, which the research classified retrospectively into two categories: the two "issues" (1904 and 1910) and the "collections ", ten in number, which included poems from the years 1910-1932. These quasi-books were not traded, but the poet himself sent or gave them to friends and admirers of his work, keeping meticulous distribution lists. This innovative publishing tactic made his equally innovative poetry difficult to find and sought after. His overall poetic production has been classified retrospectively by G. P. Savvidis into four categories: the 154 poems of the "canon", that is, those published by Cavafy himself and included in the two "issues" and the ten "collections" · the "Rejected" of his first period; the "Hidden" (originally called "Jokes") which were not published until his death, and the "Incomplete", unfinished drafts of poems.

Already during the 1920s, many young people of the time in Athens had turned their attention to Cavafy's poetry, contacted him asking to acquire his collections of monographs or wrote studies on his work. A first public and official sample of his Athenian acceptance was the rather sympathetic tribute of the magazine Nea Techni (1924), in which a multitude of writers expressed their generally positive opinions about the honoree.
The dedication was the creation of Marios Vaianos who corresponded with the poet without ever having met, and had voluntarily assumed the role of Cavafy's agent in Athens, offering important services in the communication and contact of the Athenian scholars with Alexandrinos. In 1926, the dictatorial government of Pangalos awarded the poet the Order of the Phoenix, the only honor he received during his lifetime. In the same year, when the notable Alexandrian magazines had ceased publication, a new literary and artistic publication, Alexandrian Art (1926-1932), was published in Alexandria, which was not only managed invisibly, but also financially supported by Cavafy, in order to for his work to be shown and any reactions and attacks against him to be negated. It is certain that many of the unsigned comments in this magazine are written by Cavafy. The pages of Alexandrian Art mention in detail all the positive publications about the poet from various other publications, Greek and foreign, and reconstruct any aggressive comments against him. Sporadic, individual translations of his poems into foreign languages are also mentioned in the relevant news.

The first translations of Cavafy's poems into the English language were attempted very early on by John Cavafy, the poet's brother (to whom belongs the translation of the bilingual four-page book "My Walls", 1897), and the English translator George Valassopoulos, who translated some of Cavafy's into English poems included by E. M. Forster in his Alexandria books and published by T. S. Eliot in his Criterion magazine. Until Cavafy's death, the translations of his poems into European languages were few and exemplary; they are often included in foreign language anthologies of modern Greek poetry. A veritable translation boom occurred after the Second World War and continues to this day with new, updated editions, even in languages that already have earlier translation attempts.
From the end of the 1920s the poet felt discomfort in the larynx. "This is what made him cut cigarettes in half, become more and more silent in socializing, seized by a sudden melancholy", as Stratis Tsirkas writes. He is diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and the doctors recommend that he move to Athens, where he comes accompanied by the couple of his heirs, Alekos and Rika Segopoulou. His presence in the Greek capital was widely publicized in the Athenian press. He will stay for four months (July-October 1932), he will be hospitalized in the Red Cross hospital and undergo a tracheotomy, as a result of which he will permanently lose his voice and speech. He communicates with those who visit him in the hospital with short written notes. In this last trip to Athens, he will get to know many Athenian writers who will record in detail their not always positive impressions. Before leaving for Alexandria, he will be received by the couple Costas and Elenis Ouranis and, during the evening, the composer and conductor Dimitris Mitropoulos will perform on the piano his work 10 Inventions, based on ten Cavava poems.

Around the end of 1932, and while the poet has returned to Alexandria, the Cavafy tribute of the magazine O Kyklos is published in the capital. Meanwhile, his health is deteriorating. In April 1933, he was admitted to the Greek Hospital of Alexandria, where he will take his last breath on April 29, and will be buried in the family tomb of the Cavafids in the Greek cemetery of Siatbi. On the unnecessary tombstone is written: KONSTANTINOS P. KAVAFIS / POET / DIED IN ALEXANDRIA ON 29 / APRIL 1933.
According to the criticism, Cavafy began his poetic stage with romantic influences, passed successively through Parnassianism and symbolism, to end up, in the most mature and lasting phase of his work, in poetic realism. His ironic language is direct and active, far from the anchors of urbanism, the erotic theme of the open, through History his response to contemporary events is consistently traceable. With lifelong and unwavering devotion to the Art of Poetry, he spoke of love and death, of violence and the intoxication of power, of political opportunism and the refutation of great ideals. Today he is recognized worldwide as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.

In 1932, Cavafy, ill with cancer of the larynx, went for treatment to Athens, where he remained for some time, receiving a warm sympathy from his multitude of admirers. But returning to Alexandria, his condition worsened. He was admitted to the Hellenic Community Hospital, where he died on his birthday, April 29, 1933.

A brief autobiographical note of the poet:
I am a native of Constantinople, but I was born in Alexandria - in a house on Serif Street; I left when I was very young, and spent a considerable part of my childhood in England. Then he visited this country as an adult, but for a short time. I also lived in France. In my teenage years I lived in Constantinople for two years. It has been many years since I went to Greece. My last job was as an employee in a government office dependent on the Ministry of Public Works of Egypt. I know English, French and a little Italian.

Today his poetry has not only prevailed in Greece, but also occupied a prominent position in all European poetry, after the translations of his poems initially in French, English, German and then in many other languages.

The body of Cavafy's poems includes: The 154 poems that he recognized (the so-called Recognized), his 37 Rejected poems, most of them youthful, in a romantic purgatory, which he later repudiated, the Hidden, i.e. 75 poems that were found finished on paper of, as well as the 30 Incompletes, which were found on his papers without having taken their final form. In 1904 he himself published a small collection entitled Poems, in which he included the poems: Voices, Desires, Candles, An Old Man, Deisis, The Souls of the Old, The First Step, Interruption, Thermopylae, The Windows, Waiting for the Barbarians, Infidelity and Achilles' horses. The collection, in 100-200 copies, was circulated privately.

In 1910 he reprinted his collection, adding only seven poems: Troyes, Monotony, Sarpedon's funeral, Dionysus' escort, King Demetrius, The steps and This one. And this collection was traded by him to people he valued. His last recognized poem is Eis ta perihora tis Antiochia published in 1933 and his first the Walls (1897).

In 1935, the first complete edition of his (154) Poems was published in Athens, edited by Rika Segopoulou, which sold out immediately. Two more reprints were made after 1948.
The poet painstakingly worked on each verse, sometimes for years, before publishing it. In several of his editions there are corrections in his own hand, and often when he reworked his poems he printed them corrected.

They are anthologized in school books:
At the church
As much as you can
In 200 BC
Waiting for the barbarians
The satrapy
God forbid Antonio
Alexandrian kings
Leaders from Western Libya
Youth of Sidon 400 AD
Melancholy of Jason Cleandros poet in Commagene; 595 AD.

I. Poetry
• It is being built. Single-sheet edition, [1891].
• Walls; by Constantin Cavafy · My walls · From the greek of Constantin Cavafy · Translated by John C. Cavafy. Four-page edition, [1897].
• Deesis. Alexandria, type lithography I.K. Lagoudakis, 1898.
• Ancient Days. Four-page edition, Alexandria, 1898.
• Waiting for the barbarians. Alexandria, type lithography I.K. Lagoudakis, 1904.
• Poems. Alexandria, 1904.
• Poems. Alexandria, 1910.
• Poems. Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1910-1906 [=1918].
• Poems (1909-1911). Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1917-1920.
• Poems. Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1918-1920.
• Poems. Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1920-1926.
• Poems (1907-1915). Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1926-1930.
• Poems. Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1926-1930.
• Poems (1916-1918). Collection of single sheets, 1929-1933.
• Poems. Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1929-1933.
• Poems (1905-1915). Collection of single sheets, Alexandria, 1930-1933.
• Poems; Artwork by Takis Kalmouhou; Philological editing by Rika Segopoulou. Alexandria, published by Alexandrian Art, 1935.
• Poems. Athens, Ikaros, 1948 (2nd ed.)
II. Peza - Essays
• Two Shakespearean articles by Cavafy; Shakespeare about life and Greek traces in Shakespeare; Presented and commented by G.P. Savvidis. Athens, unprinted by the Anglo-Hellenic Review, 1954.
• On the Church and the Theatre; Introductory note by G.P. Savvidis. Athens, Reprint with corrections and additions from around Theatro, 1963.
• Comments on Ruskin; An Unpublished Manuscript of the Poet; Presentation- edited by Stratis Tsirkas. Athens, unprinted by the Art Review, 1963.
• The thoughts of an old artist. Thessaloniki, unprinted by Tram, 1972.
• The end of Odysseus. Ioannina, unprinted from the Ordeal, 1974.
• Giorgos Kehagioglou, "K.P. Cavafy The meeting of vowels in prosody; Presentation and commentary of the anecdotal prose text", Publications of the Society of Macedonian Studies30 (Thessaloniki), 1977-1978.
• "In the light of Day; Un racconto inedito a cura di Renata Lavagnini", Quaderni8 (Universita di Palermo. Istituto di Filologia Greca), 1979.
• Letters to Mario Vaiano · Introductory Essay, Presentation, Comments and Notes by E.N. Moschou. Athens, Hestia, 1979.
• Polys Modinos, Three letters of Cavafy. Athens, ELIA, 1980.
• "Epitafion of Sami and Tigranikerta", Quaderni9 (Universita di Palermo. Istituto di Filologia Greca), 1982.
III. Consolidated publications
• Poems A' (1896-1918). Athens, Ikaros, 1963.
• Poems B' (1919-1933). Athens, Ikaros, 1963.
• Peza; Presentation, Comments GA Papoutsakis. Athens, Fexis, 1963.
• Anecdotal Peza Texts · Introduction and translation by Michalis Peridis. Athens, Fexis, 1963.
• Poems (1896-1933) · Drawings by N. Hatzikyriakos Ghikas. Athens, Ikaros, 1966.
• Autograph Poems (1896-1910) · The Segopoulos notebook in an identical edition presented by G.P. Savvidis. Athens, Technografiki (Hermis), 1968.
• Anecdotal Poems (1882-1923); Philological editing by G.P. Savvidis. Athens, Ikaros, 1968.
• All Cavafy1; Poems (1896-1933); Artistic editing by Philip G.Fexis. Athens, Fikiris, 1982.
• All of Cavafy2; Anecdotal poems (1882-1923); Artistic editing by Philip G.Fexis. Athens, Fikiris, 1982.
• All Cavafy3 · Pedestrians · Artistic curation by Filippou G. Fexis. Athens, Fikiris, 1982.
• All Cavafy4 · An anthology of texts, manuscripts, letters, photographs, drawings and books · Artistic editing by Philip G. Fexis. Athens, Fikiris, 1982.
• Poems · Drawings by A. Fasianos · Artistic editing by Philip G. Fasianos. Athens, Fikiris, 1983.
• K.P. Cavafis · Identical copies of his first five pamphlets (1891΄-1904) · Presentation - comments by G.P. Savvidis. Athens, ELIA, 1983.
• Rejected poems and translations; (1886-1898) · Philological editing G.P. Savvidis. Athens, Ikaros, 1983.
• Two anecdotal prose poems (The Constitution of Pleasure – Clothes) and a text on the 'Idols' of Roidis; Presented and commented by G.P.Savvidis. Athens, Hermes, 1983.
• Anecdotal notes of poetry and ethics · Presented by G.P. Savvidis. Athens, Hermes, 1983.
• Poems (1897-1933) · Versed edition edited by G.P. Savvidis. Athens, Ikaros, 1984.
• Incomplete poems 1918-1932. Athens, Ikaros, 1994.
• K.P. Cavafis; Official, hidden and imperfect; Introduction and selection of poems by Mimis Souliotis. Athens, Hermes, 1995. 1.

He himself had classified his poems into three categories: historical, philosophical and erotic or sensual.
The historical poems are mainly inspired by the Hellenistic period, and in most Alexandria has a prominent place. Several others come from Greco-Roman antiquity and Byzantium, and there are also poems with mythological references (e.g. Troyes). It is typical that Cavafy is not inspired at all by the recent historical past, that is the revolution of '21, nor by classical antiquity. The periods he chooses are periods of decline or great change, and most of his heroes are "losers".
The sensual or love poems, which are the most lyrical, are dominated by homosexuality and themes such as memory and reminiscence. What causes the feelings is not the present, but the past, and very often the vision.
Philosophical poems are called by others "didactic". E.P. Papanoutsos divided them into the following groups: poems with "advice to fellow artists", i.e. poems about poetry, and poems dealing with other topics, such as the theme of the Walls, the concept of debt (Thermopyles), human dignity (Apoliipein o Theos Antonion ), of the squadron (Caesarians) et al.
Dividing his poetic work into philosophical, historical and hedonistic, his poems reflect the romantic element, his philosophical thought and his historical knowledge. Regarding his historical poems in particular, we must take into account that he composed them while experiencing the atmosphere of a city that became, during its Hellenistic past, a melting pot of peoples and a crossroads of cultures. His heroes are well-known historical figures or figments of his imagination, and the poet narrates to the characters that he shapes human behaviors marked by temporary success and fate that neutralizes the human will.

Cities of the eastern Mediterranean - especially Alexandria as mentioned above - are the place where the events of the poems take place and according to their content they are characterized by the relatively modern researchers of Cavafian poetics as pseudo-historical, historiographical and historiogenic. The poet himself pointed out the difference between his historical poems, but without giving them a particular name. Seferis introduced the term "pseudo-historical" in order to distinguish with it the poems that use historical material metaphorically, allegorically creating false stories. I. M. Panagiotopoulos, in turn, introduced the term "historical". There he includes the historical poems, whose fictional characters are involved in a historical context that invests the plot. Michalis Pieris considered the term "historical" necessary for the poems that were born from direct historical material. Finally, the erotic or sensual poems of Cavafy's hedonistic cycle are memories of realized or unrealized loves expressing the aspects of his homosexuality.

Form and symbolism
The language and lyrical form of Cavafy's poems were peculiar and innovative for the time. Their main characteristics are:
Cavafy's poem, Hidden, painted on a building in Leiden, Holland.

Peculiar language, a mixture of Katharevous and vernacular, with idiomatic elements of Constantinople.
Extremely austere speech, with few adjectives (what there are always have a special meaning, they are never conventional, decorative adjectives).
Neutral language, almost prosaic, far from the poetic conventions of the time. Language does not reveal feelings.
Extremely short poems.
Iambic rhythm, but so elaborate that it is often difficult to distinguish.
Rhyme not in all poems, sometimes loose and casual.
Special importance in punctuation: they play a role for meaning (eg irony) or function as recitation instructions (eg lowering the tone of voice in parentheses).
The manuscript of his poem Thermopylae.

Cavafy works mainly through symbols. His art is the gathering of archetypes, which give a fleeting suggestive meaning to his speech. It draws memories from the past, and deposits them in the present, sometimes as a warning for the future. Such is his relationship with the collective soul and its contents, that he is considered a forerunner of the relationship of 20th century literature with the collective consciousness.

A special element of his technique is a rare directing ability similar to that which one encounters in prose or theatrical speech. Yet another characteristic of the complementary of the aforementioned is the tendency, through his speech, to impersonate personas. This characteristic creates a multi-layered poetry but also enigmatic since it is often indiscernible for the reader to recognize through which person the poet himself is speaking and with whom he identifies.

Its symbolic tendency is intense and is combined with a simple but timelessly relevant discourse. The ironic mood, what has been called Cavafian irony is combined with the tragedy of reality, to become socially didactic and his hedonistic orientations are mixed with social highlights. Undoubtedly, it is not easy to clearly delimit Cavafy's poetics in thematic circles. The story mixes with the senses and the contemplation in a single entity, the one that Cavafy himself probably identifies as a "single Cavafian cycle", but in each separate case, in the very next verse, the alternation vindicates those who called Cavafy's poetry protean.

In 1926, he was awarded the Phoenix prize by the government of Theodoros Pangalos.

Since November 16, 1992, Cavafy's apartment, in the once infamous Attarin neighborhood of Alexandria, has been turned into a museum. The museum has several of Cavafy's sketches and original manuscripts, photographs and portraits of him.

In 1996, the movie Cavafy based slightly on his life was shown, with Dimitris Kataleifos and Vassilis Diamantopoulos in the title role and directed by Yiannis Smaragdis.

In 2004, Sean Connery recited Cavafy's Ithaca, to music by Vangelis Papathanasiou, This performance was released on CD and included in the book Ithaca - A Journey in Color by Micheline Rockbrin Connery.

  Atanazio Catraro, the first translator of Cavafy's poems into Italian and his personal friend, writes: "Cavafi's homosexuality is burdened by a big question mark, which needs deep prudent and objective study and it is possible that the decision will be exculpatory. No one has ever been able to produce a proof of the sin imputed to the poet, and he has never been involved in a scandal."

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