Custom Search

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Constantine Cavafy revisited

I was so nicely surprised to see that the New York Review of Books published an article on a poet that I have liked for many years - Constantine Cavafy. Many years ago, when I was in high school, my father picked his volume from the hundreds of poetry books at our place in Sliven and ever since I treasure him. I knew almost nothing about him besides the fact that he was a part of the Greek diaspora in Alexandria (nowadays Egypt) and he led an entirely inconspicuous life having been recognized only in his late age. I will not retell facts from his life but only want to draw the attention to a fact that sometimes we forget that the banality of our externally visible life can be in stark contrast with the dynamics of the internal life.

There are a couple of poems that I would like to point to like the beautiful Ithaka exploitng the myth of Odyssey. It is a great and encouraging metaphor of life far from the home place and a reminder that this life is, after all, defined by this home place: 'Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing left to give you now.'

I also want to single out another poem - Myris, Alexandria in 340 AD - which takes us to a long forgotten perion in the 4th c. Alexandria AD at the time of the suppression of the pre-Christian gods, namely Serapis, when the worship temples - Serapeums - were slowly replaced with Christian churches. However, this poem is about tolerance, humanity and sublimation of religious hatred.

Constantin Cavafy around 1900

No comments: