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Complete Poems

av C.P. Cavafy

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Presents a complete collection of the modern Greek poet's work, including his unfinished poems, which explores themes of longing and loneliness, fate and loss, memory and identity, throughout the history of Greek civilization.



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So, to be clear, I'm not giving Cavafy's poems 2 stars; my opprobrium is reserved for Daniel Mendelsohn's dishearteningly dead translations. Yes, Cavafy was writing free verse in the modernist vein. Yes, his poetic tone often borders on conversational. But Mendelsohn has decided to ignore the rhythmic torrents of the great poet's work, to select the most mundane word in any situation, to replace the feeling with the cerebral, rather than let the two walk hand in hand. The conversational, perhaps, has become colloquial.

It is certainly impressive for Mendelsohn to have translated all of Cavafy's poems (this edition is a "highlights reel" from the full two-volume collection). This should not be taken as a slight on his lifetime of work or his command of Greek! (Who am I to make such judgments?) Yet dedication alone, however admirable, is not achievement. Perhaps it's an American thing - or a generational one! Mendelsohn's collection has been rapturously received by American institutions, and I suspect there is something appealing, to those soaked in the American literary tradition, in the understated ordinariness of this verse.

As one who does not have Greek, it would be folly to discuss the art of translation in this context. So allow me to compare just two lines from Cavafy's most famous poem The City to try and express the intangible something which I find to be missing from DM's translation.

Here is DM:
"You'll always end up in this city. Don't bother to hope
for a ship, a route, to take you somewhere else;
they don't exist."

Here Edmund Keeley:
" You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road."

Rae Delven:
"Always you will arrive in this city. Do not hope for any other–
There is no ship for you, there is no road."

Theoharis C. Theoharis:
"Always you will end up in this city.
For you there is no boat - abandon hope of that -
no road to other things."

And finally Lawrence Durrell, consciously "transplanting" rather than "translating", in a version from the appendices to his Justine:
"The city is a cage.
No other places, always this
Your earthly landfall, and no ship exists
To take you from yourself."

Four versions of Cavafy I would enjoy reading. And none of them Mendelsohn's. ( )
  therebelprince | Nov 15, 2020 |
I was required to learn a little Cavafy when I took Modern Greek in school, but he only made a partial impression on me at the time. It was this book which made me fall in love. When I read it, I have the sensation of finding a book I had written myself but somehow never read... I don't have the poetic skill in English or Greek, but the thoughts fit with my thoughts. I'm concerned that if I learned Cavafy's works too well, that feeling might slip away and never be recovered. And so Cavafy became my favorite poet, but I also carefully refrain from becoming too much of an expert. It is a book I pick up again once a year or so, especially if I start to think that I don't enjoy poetry after all. Highly recommended. ( )
  Bessarion42 | Jul 11, 2020 |
To read a poet only in translation, is to suffer a great loss. In spite of the strong recommendation by W.H. Auden, at the beginning of this collection, I have always felt that. None the less, in the "Alexandria quartet" by Lawrence Durrell, the quotes seem so apposite that I acquired this collection. I do not know how accurate, Rae Dalven translated the poems, but I have turned to this volume time and again, to read a poem or two. I recommend this book, perhaps because the poems that Dalven translated have a poetic effect on me, whether or not, the originals could have affected me the same way, had I the Greek to deal with them. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Mar 5, 2020 |
Having only a vague idea of Cavafy's work before picking this up--in Atlantis Books in Ia on Santorini--I was a bit surprised to notice a theme of, erm, amorous language describing the male form, etc. A bit awkward as I was reading it in church, but this is powerful stuff. My favorite piece in this collection is probably Ithaca, which has haunted me over the last few weeks. From near the end:

"Ithaca gave you the beautiful journey;
without her you wouldn't have set upon the road.
But now she has nothing left to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca didn't deceive you.
As wise as you will have become, with so much
you will understand, by then, these Ithacas,
what they mean."
( )
  shum57 | Jul 22, 2019 |
A compelling collection of all the poetry of the early 20th-century Greek 'poet-historian' C. P. Cavafy. Whilst that moniker might sound pretentious at first, it is an accurate description of the Alexandrian; his poems draw on Classical history, both well-known and obscure, and his research is meticulous and comprehensive. This can make some of Cavafy's poetry difficult to approach, as one requires the historical background for many of these poems in order to try and understand the main thrust of the poem. (To this end, editor Daniel Mendelsohn's excellent and exhaustive Notes – which comprise of approximately half of the entire book – are essential in navigating the poetry, rather than just a boon for more scholarly readers.)

This may deny the pleasure of Cavafy to many prospective readers, but in my opinion it was well-worth the mental effort it required. There's no poet quite like Cavafy; the muse he taps into is quite different from any other poet's, and consequently has an unspoilt richness that indeed makes it seem, to paraphrase his most famous poem 'Ithaca', like first putting into harbours new to your eyes. It's like entering a whole new world, and unfortunately Cavafy's pioneering work forged a path that has not been entirely explored by subsequent poets. Cavafy just gets the romantic undertones inherent in the study of history: the idea that, as Mendelsohn notes, "the backward glance can, in the end, be a glimpse into the future" (pg. lxxii) and, even more significantly, the idea that problems of emotion and of history both require the same remedy: the realisation that our understanding of events whether personal or historical can only come with the passage of time. For, as Mendelsohn further notes, Cavafy's poetry is:

"… richly coloured by a profound sympathy for human striving in the face of impossible obstacles. (Which could be the armies of Octavian or taboos against forbidden desires.)… That appreciation, that sympathy, that understanding are, of course, made possible only by Time – the medium that makes History possible, too… His poetry returns obsessively to a question that is, essentially, a historian's question: how the passage of time affects our understanding of events – whether the time in question is the millennia that have elapsed since 31 B.C., when the Hellenophile Marc Antony's dreams of an Eastern Empire were pulverized by Rome (the subject of seven poems), or the mere years that, in the poem 'Since Nine –', have passed since those long-ago nights that the narrator spent in bustling cafés and crowded city streets: a space of time that has since been filled with the deaths of loved ones whose value he only now appreciates…" (pg. xxxv – xxxvi)

It is this awareness of the immediacy of history, allowing "the blurring of the ancient and the modern" (pg. xx), which gives Cavafy his durability and integrity. I confess that I was drawn to read Cavafy due to my love of Greek mythology (I was already aware of and impressed by 'Ithaca'), but I found a body of work even more satisfying than just an indulgence of my own pet interests.

Favourites include: 'The God Abandons Antony', 'Ithaca', 'Trojans', 'Far Off', 'Gray', 'The Mirror in the Entrance', 'Candles', 'Thermopylae', 'The Windows', 'Walls', 'Oedipus', 'Azure Eyes', 'Hidden', 'The Rest I Shall Tell in Hades to Those Below', 'That's How', 'Half an Hour' and the prose poem 'Ships'. ( )
  Mike_F | Mar 19, 2017 |
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» Lägg till fler författare (152 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
C.P. Cavafyprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Auden, W. H.Berättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Auden, W. H.Inledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Barnstone, AlikiÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Blanken, G.H.Översättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Dalven, RaeÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Dimaras, ConstantinÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Ferraté, JoanÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Ferraté, JoanÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Keeley, EdmundÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Mendelsohn, DanielÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Molegraaf, MarioÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Savidis, GeorgeRedaktörmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Savidis, GeorgeFormgivaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Sherrard, PhilipÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Solà, Alexis E.Översättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Warren, HansÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Yourcenar, MargueriteÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Presents a complete collection of the modern Greek poet's work, including his unfinished poems, which explores themes of longing and loneliness, fate and loss, memory and identity, throughout the history of Greek civilization.

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W.W. Norton

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