"Jeffrey Carson--a poet himself with a kindred sensibility to Elytis's--has admirably succeeded in bringing across the Greek poet's lyrical voice and the richness of his diction. This first translation of Elytis's complete works is accurate and elegant, a work of diligence and love that affords the English-speaking reader a picture of the evolution of the poet's work."--Dorothy M-T. Gregory, The Ionian University, Corfu
In awarding Odysseus Elytis the 1979 Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Academy declared that he had been selected "for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clearsightedness modern man's struggle for freedom and creativeness." Elytis was largely unknown outside his native Greece before winning literature's highest honor, and much of his work has not been widely available in English.
The Collected Poems is the first collection in any language, including Greek, of Elytis's complete poetry, a body of work marked by a profound love of hope, freedom, beauty, and Greek tradition. Twenty years in preparation, this volume includes his early poems, influenced in equal parts by surrealism and the landscape and climate of Greece and the Aegean Sea; his long, epic poem connecting Greece's--and his own--Second World War experience to the myth of the eternal Greek hero, Song Heroic and Mourning for the Lost Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign; his most ambitious work, The Axion Esti, which the Swedish Academy praised as "one of 20th-century literature's most concentrated and ritually faceted poems"; and his mature poetry, from Maria Nephele, a poem in two voices, to his last collection, West of Sorrow, written the summer before his death in 1996 at age 84.
Throughout his long career as a poet, Elytis remained true to his vision of a poetry that addresses the power of language and links Greece's two thousand years of myth and history with the social and psychological demands of the modern age. Renowned for their astonishing lyricism and profound optimism, Elytis's poems employ surreal imagery and a remarkable variety of forms to capture the natural, sun-soaked beauty of Greece and to give voice to the contemporary Greek--and to a more universally human--consciousness.
Praise for Odysseus Elytis:
"Perhaps the most pervasive presence throughout his work... is the physical experience of Greece: the sun's intense illumination, the seas strewn with jewel-like islands, the life of its proud people beneath the invasion of 20th-century culture and politics. From these Elytis crafts powerful and sparkling lyrics, sometimes bitter, often full of wonder and celebration." -- Christian Science Monitor
"Elytis is a paragon of enthusiasm, of protean moods, multiple forms; his purpose, in essence: the deification of the sun and the body of man." -- Hudson Review
"A poet of large achievement... His work... has a kind of passionate optimism about the possibilities of his small Aegean world." -- New York Review of Books