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Constantine P. Cavafy
Constantine P. Cavafy, also known as Konstantin or Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, or Kavaphes (April 29, 1863 - April 29, 1933) was a Greek poet who is among the 20th century's most important literary figures, though he is relatively little known in the English speaking world; he also worked as a journalist and civil servant.
Cavafy was a skeptic who attacked traditional values of Christianity, patriotism, and heterosexuality, though he was not always comfortable with his role as a nonconformist. He published about 200 poems, most of the important ones being written after his fortieth birthday.
Cavafy was born in Alexandria, Egypt. His father was a wealthy importer-exporter, however, when his father died in 1870, Cavafy and his family had to move to Liverpool, UK, though he moved back to Alexandria in 1882.
The outbreak of riots there in 1885 meant the family had to move again, this time to Constantinople. In 1885 Cavafy moved back to Alexandria, where he lived for the rest of his life. He originally worked as a journalist, but then worked for the Egyptian Ministry of Public Works for thirty years. From 1891-1904 he published his poetry in broadsheet form for his close friends, receiving little acclaim during his lifetime. He died in 1933.
Since his death, Cavafy's reputation has grown, and he is now considered to be one of the finest modern Greek poets. One of Cavafy's poems has been quoted in the recent novel Music, In a Foreign Language by Andrew Crumey.
Cavafy was instrumental to the revival and recognition of Greek poetry both at home and abroad. His poems were typically concise but intimate portraits of real or literary individuals and societies that played a role in Greek culture. Uncertainty about the future, sensual pleasures, the moral character and psychology of individuals, homosexuality and nostalgia are some of the defining themes. A recluse, he was virtually unknown until late in his life. Besides his subjects, unconventional for the time, his poems also exhibit a skilled and versatile craftsmanship, which is almost completely lost in translation. His poetry is now taught at schools in Greece.
Selections of Cavafy's poems appeared only in pamphlets, privately printed booklets and broadsheets during his lifetime. The first publication, in book form, was
- Ποιήματα (Piimata, or 'Poems of C. P. Cavafy') in Alexandria, 1935.
- The Complete Poems of Cavafy translated by Rae Dalven
- C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard , edited by George Savidis
- Before Time Could Change Them: The Complete Poems of Constantine P.Cavafy translated by Theoharis C. Theoharis
- Cavafy's Alexandria by Edmund Keeley
- Cavafy: A Critical Biography by Robert Liddell
- A comprehensive website, including a biography, a gallery, bibliography, news and extensive selections of poetry in English and Greek
- W. H. Auden's "Introduction to Cavafy´s poems"
- The Cavafy Museum in Alexandria
- Cavafy: surviving immortality
- "Artificial Flowers" — translations by Peter J. King & Andrea Christofidou
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