In awarding Odysseus Elytis the 1979 Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Academy praised him "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." Throughout his long career as a poet, Elytis (1911–1996) remained true to his vision of a poetry that addresses the power of language and connects the history and mythology of Greece to the physical world and to the realities of the modern age. Renowned for their astonishing lyricism and profound optimism, Elytis's poems capture the natural wonders of Greece and give voice to the contemporary Greek—and to a more universally human—consciousness.
Originally published in 1997, The Collected Poems of Odysseus Elytis, translated into English by Jeffrey Carson and Nikos Sarris, was the first complete collection of Elytis's poems in any language. Included in this landmark volume were Elytis's early poems, influenced in equal parts by surrealism and the natural world; Song Heroic and Mourning for the Lost Second Lieutenant of the Albanian Campaign, his epic poem connecting Greece's—and his own—Second World War experience to the myth of the eternal Greek hero; his most ambitious work, The Axion Esti; and his mature poetry, from Maria Nephele to West of Sorrow.
For this expanded new edition, Carson and Sarris have added sixty free verse and prose poems first published in Greek in the posthumous 1998 volume From Close By, as well as a set of song lyrics, The Rhos of Eros, and a cantata, The Sovereign Sun, previously omitted. All have been translated with the same care and elegance as the rest of Elytis's oeuvre, brilliantly rendering into English the Greek poet's lyrical voice and the richness of his diction.