A Greek Cypriot, I loved the poetry of Kavafy in all my life. Not only in my small island state, but also in Metropolitan Greece, and in the Greek diaspora, in the whole Hellenism and in their collective consciousness, Kavafy is the undisputed best of all poets in modern Greece. And this is remarkable considering that the only two recipients of a Nobel prize in Greece were poets: George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis.
Kavafy's poetry possesses clarity, the message is simple, unmistakable but profound, his penetrating intellect has the prowess to dissect and reveal naked the true nature of the human condition. You have the acute feeling that his poetry is a distillate from which all redundancy has been purged and all verse has been polished to perfection. Irony and a twist in his verse recur and beauty is ever present. Homosexuality is explicit but filtered as a hymn to youth, beauty, and passion. His poetry has a transcendent and universal quality.
An exquisite summary of the great Alexandrian poet's oeuvre is presented in the iconic phrase of E.M.Forster and its elaboration on the book's cover:
'a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe'
'E.M.Forster's description of C.P.Cavafy(1863-1933)perfectly encapsulates the unique perspective Cavafy brought to bear on history and geography, sexuality and language in his poems. Cavafy writes about people on the periphery, whose religious, ethnic, and cultural identities are blurred, and he was one of the pioneers in expressing a specifically homosexual sensibility. His poems present brief and vivid evocations of historical scenes and sensual moments, often infused with his distinctive sense of irony. They have established him as one of the most important poets of the twentieth century.'
Obviously what poetry appeals to you is a personal matter so it's pointless for me to extol Cavafy's writing. I find it very direct and very poignant. Many of the poems have an 'end of period', romantic wistfulness. Be warned though that there is quite a variety here and possibly the bulk relying very much on classical allusions which I find slightly weighty sometimes. Though I found nothing that was not worth reading.
My understanding is that Cavafy only published his work privately and for selected friends. I was surprised how challenging his poetry is for somebody living between the mid 19th century and the 1930s. Many of the poems are openly intimate, erotic and with homosexual (excuse the old word!) grounding.
The introduction was excellent and the book very well laid out.
However the real treat for some people, and presumably students, is that the text is laid out in parallel English and Greek. The Greek is a strange mixture of forms but has a wonderfully light and rhymthic feel.
Given the low cost I would strong recommend it to anybody
In the panorama of twentieth century poetry, Kavafis' work - presented here in the original Greek with the English parallel translation - occupies a special place. Dark, lonely to the limit of self-segregation, but at the same time attracted by the Mediterranean vitality and openness, the neo-Hellenic poet refuses en block every aspect of his time, diving instead, with constant wonder, into the suggestions of mythological legends and ancient history.
The result of this literary 'operation' is the continuous, desperate search for a mysterious and elusive Beauty, an evocation of hidden moments and loves sung now with violently sensual accents, now with heartfelt and nostalgic tones, mixed with a tragic vision of history as eternal struggle between men and destiny.
I first discovered Cavafy and his remarkable work when it was a compulsory part of my Modern Greek Alevel, and fell in love with him from there! This is a truly inspiring and spectacular collection of some of his best poems. Highly recommended to all classicists, Greeks and... well to everyone!!
As an army child I once lived in Alexandria, the home of this great Alexandrian poet of Greek extraction.
Cavafy was a gay poet writing in Alexandria in the early years of the 20th Century (he died in 1933) and brought to his poetry not only great sensibility and sensitivity but conjured up wonderful images of his beloved Alexandria - past and present.
Now that I live in Greece, I have no excuse to read Cavafy in his original Greek. This parallel English-Greek edition of his best poems is therefore perfect.
This is an exemplary book. The Greek text is face-to-face with the translation and there are useful notes and an informative introduction. Very many translations of foreign poets are published without the original text, which many students and interested readers would want to see, so this is a welcome exception. (There are also welcome exceptions for Ritsos, but they are not numerous.)
I have the Kindle version as well as the printed book. On my particular Android tablet the app does not show two pages side-by-side, so if that could be a problem for you the paper book is the better option.
The poems of Cavafy need no commendation in addition to those from other reviewers. The Greek is remarkably standard and I have encountered no word absent from the Oxford dictionary, although I have had to puzzle for a minute or two over some verbs.
A translation by Evangelos Sachperoglou very similar to the classic one by Mavrogordato published in 1951 but with the added interest of contributions by Anthony Hirst and Peter Mackridge. The poems in the original Greek run alongside the translations which will be of great interest to those who are able to speak or read that language: I do not, but find the book of great interest nontheless. Excellent buy.