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2nd Floor 889.1/Cavafy Due Jul 12, 2022
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2009.
1st ed
Greek, Modern (1453-)
Item Description
Physical Description
lxi, 547 p. ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Constantine Cavafy, 1863-1933 (-)
Other Authors
Daniel Adam Mendelsohn, 1960- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* The first decade of the twenty-first century ends as it began, with a new, near-complete translation of Cavafy. But whereas Theoharis Constantine Theoharis' literarily distinguished Before Time Could Change Them (2001) let several naive impressions of Greek-less readers stand, and Aliki Barnstone's yet more readable Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy (2006) did nothing to dispel them, Mendelsohn's effort corrects them. Besides sketching Cavafy's rather bland life and appraising his poetry as a whole, the introduction explains Cavafy's poetic techniques and Mendelsohn's approximation of them in English. Cavafy's Greek originals are mostly rhymed, metrically regular verses, in familiar forms early on and relaxing into verse paragraphs as he matured. His diction became more demotic as he developed, though he always used bits of nineteenth-century literary Greek for historical and cultural nuance. This technical information may be revelatory for ardent yet unscholarly admirers of the poetry but should only increase their admiration. More revelation, for those who haven't ferreted out the historical references in the poems, comes in the 282 pages of notes Mendelsohn has written as clearly and gracefully as the introduction. There are at least three older translations than Mendelsohn's, Barnstone's, and Theoharis', and in them Cavafy is the same. But Mendelsohn has gone the extra mile, so to speak. If it was a great effort for him, it is an immensely gratifying pleasure for Cavafians to follow in his footsteps. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Mendelsohn (Bard College) delivers a treasure trove, a two-volume set that will be the standard resource on Cavafy (1863-1933) for the foreseeable future. Mendelsohn's fresh translations breathe both clarity and subtle nuance into Cavafy's work, and his introduction and extensive commentary provide access to the poems previously available only to classicists. Cavafy's poems have been considered in two distinct arenas: historical and sensual. The sensual poems have enjoyed popularity because of academic and political interest in gay and lesbian issues and because of the "appealingly straightforward style"; the historical poems require a knowledge of classical history that has left them obscure to most readers. Mendelsohn opens up the historical poems, not only with concise yet thorough commentary on individual poems but also by relating the individual poems to Cavafy's entire oeuvre and thus reintegrating the two arenas heretofore seen as distinct. Revealing the intersections of power, desire, ego, ambition, failure, humor, pathos, tragedy, and absurdity, Cavafy's work brings to the fore the humanity that shaped the classical histories and continues to shape the present. Cavafy saw himself as "a poet of the future," and this volume reveals that to be the case. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. Copyright 2010 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Already a celebrated critic, memoirist and classicist, Mendelsohn drew together his interests in ancient history, literature, gay life and culture, and beautiful language to produce the finest, most readable version of the modern Greek poet Cavafy (1863–1933) to come along in decades. Cavafy has long been highly regarded by American readers, especially for the straightforward, seemingly timeless, hard-to-pin-down tone of his poems—which alternately revel in and suffer from both ancient Greek history and homoerotic desire—but, as Mendelsohn observes in his deeply impassioned and informative introduction, many American readers overlook "those poems that are deliberately set in the obscurer margins, both geographical and temporal, of the Greek past... in favor of the works with more obvious contemporary appeal." With this new, completely annotated, translation, Mendelsohn says he aims to "restore the balance," to help readers reanimate Greek history with Cavafy, to see how relevant and pressing his whole oeuvre truly is. This larger volume (Knopf is also publishing Mendelsohn's version of Cavafy's Unfinished Poems, never before translated into English, as a separate volume, reviewed below) contains all the poems by Cavafy we have known in English, from famous works like "Ithaka" ("you will understand, by then, these Ithacas; what they mean") and "The First Step" ("you must claim your right to be/ a citizen of the city of ideas"), all rendered with a lucid music. This is likely to be the definitive Cavafy for some time to come. (Mar.) [Page 44]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Cavafy's poetry and the stories he tells brilliantly explore, with striking universality, longing and loneliness, fate and loss, memory and identity, and all with a profound, human sympathy, whether advising Odysseus as he sets out for Ithaca, or portraying a doomed Marc Antony on the night of his death.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An extraordinary literary event: the simultaneous publication of a brilliant and vivid new rendering of C. P. Cavafy’s Collected Poems and the first-ever English translation of the poet’s thirty Unfinished Poems, both featuring the fullest literary commentaries available in English—by the acclaimed critic, scholar, and award-winning author of The Lost.No modern poet brought so vividly to life the history and culture of Mediterranean antiquity; no writer dared break, with such taut energy, the early-twentieth-century taboos surrounding homoerotic desire; no poet before or since has so gracefully melded elegy and irony as the Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933). Now, after more than a decade of work and study, and with the cooperation of the Cavafy Archive in Athens, Daniel Mendelsohn—a classics scholar who alone among Cavafy’s translators shares the poet’s deep intimacy with the ancient world—is uniquely positioned to give readers full access to Cavafy’s genius. And we hear for the first time the remarkable music of his poetry: the sensuous rhymes, rich assonances, and strong rhythms of the original Greek that have eluded previous translators.The more than 250 works collected in this volume, comprising all of the Published, Repudiated, and Unpublished poems, cover the vast sweep of Hellenic civilization, from the Trojan War through Cavafy’s own lifetime. Powerfully moving, searching and wise, whether advising Odysseus as he returns home to Ithaca or portraying a doomed Marc Antony on the eve of his death, Cavafy’s poetry brilliantly makes the historical personal—and vice versa. He brings to his profound exploration of longing and loneliness, fate and loss, memory and identity the historian’s assessing eye as well as the poet’s compassionate heart.With its in-depth introduction and a helpful commentary that situates each work in a rich historical, literary, and biographical context, this revelatory new translation, together with The Unfinished Poems, is a cause for celebration—the definitive presentation of Cavafy in English.