Collected Poems (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
When he died in 1933, C. P. Cavafy was virtually unknown outside a small circle of friends and admirers. Since then, however, his reputation has grown to the point that he is regarded as one of the two or three greatest Greek poets of the twentieth century. Now, Daniel Mendelsohn has added his versions of Cavafy’s poems to an ever-growing body of English translations.
Cavafy was born in the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863. Although the city was Egyptian, Cavafy’s parents were Greek, members of a large ethnic community that lived and flourished far beyond Greece’s nominal borders. Cavafy’s father was a wealthy and successful merchant, but his death when the child was only seven forced the family to live on the generosity of far-flung relatives. As a result, Cavafy spent five years in England before returning with his mother to Alexandra. Subsequently, he led an outwardly uneventful life. He worked as a clerk in the Irrigation Office of the Egyptian Ministry of Public Works from 1892 until 1922 and continued to live with his mother until her death in 1899. Cavafy seems to have had his first homosexual experience (with a cousin) when he was twenty. Back in Alexandria, he developed the habit of slipping out after eating dinner with his mother to have sexual encounters with other men. According to one acquaintance, he also rented a room in a brothel.
Cavafy began writing poetry in his teens, but for the most part it was...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Booklist 105, no. 14 (March 15, 2009): 38.
Boston Globe, June 7, 2009, p. C5.
Harper’s Magazine 318, no. 1908 (May, 2009): 71.
New Criterion 27, no. 8 (April, 2009): 4-8.
The New Republic 240, no. 10 (June 17, 2009): 39-45.
The New York Times Book Review, April 19, 2009, p. 19.
The New Yorker 85, no. 6 (March 23, 2009): 70-75.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 11 (March 16, 2009): 44.
(The entire section is 42 words.)