Giorgos Stylianou Seferiades Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

George Seferis was born Giorgos Stylianou Seferiades in Smyrna (now ızmir), Turkey. The city was largely populated by Greeks then, and Seferis’s memories of it served as an inspiration to him for the rest of his life. It was in Smyrna that he wrote his first poetry, at the age of fourteen. Shortly thereafter World War I began, and the Seferiades family left for Athens. There, Seferis continued his secondary schooling at the First Classical Gymnasium and was graduated in 1917. His father, who also wrote a few poems and made a few translations, was an expert on international law and became a professor at the University of Athens in 1919. Seferis set out to follow in his father’s footsteps, studying law at the Sorbonne in Paris from 1918 to 1924. During this period, he became familiar with French poetry, especially the works of Paul Valery, Jules Laforgue, and other Symbolists, while continuing to write a few poems of his own.

After obtaining his degree at the Sorbonne, Seferis spent a year in London; anticipating a career in the Greek foreign service, he hoped to perfect his English. Thus, seven crucial years in Seferis’s young manhood were spent away from Greece. In 1922, while Seferis was abroad, the city of Smyrna was burned and the Greek population there displaced. The “home” to which he had clung in his memories had ceased to exist, and he began to see himself in an Odyssean light, as a wanderer in search of home. After his return to Athens, he began a long career as a diplomat, working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While serving as vice-consul in London in 1931, he first became acquainted with the works of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, which would play...

(The entire section is 688 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Giorgos Stylianou Seferiades, who would later take the pen name George Seferis (seh-FEHR-ees), was born into a Greek community in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire (now zmir, Turkey), at the start of the twentieth century. Interested in poetry even as a child, Seferis moved with his family to Athens at the beginning of World War I. In 1917, Seferis graduated from the First Classical Gymnasium and shortly thereafter went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. Although technically a student of law, Seferis continued to write poetry, and he came under the influence of the French Symbolists, including such leading figures as Charles Baudelaire, Jules Laforge, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine, and, most notably, Paul Valéry.{$S[A]Seferiades, Giorgos Stylianou;Seferis, George}

After receiving his degree and traveling widely throughout the early 1920’s, Seferis took a position with the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1926. His service as a diplomat would eventually take him to Athens, London, and Korçë (Koritsa), Albania. While working as vice consul for the Greek diplomatic service in 1931, Seferis was exposed to the poetry of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, two of the most influential poets writing in English during the early and mid-twentieth century. Seferis was particularly attracted to the dramatic voice of Eliot, and he published Greek translations of The Waste Land (1922) and Murder in the Cathedral (1935); these works were collected into Seferis’s volume T. S. Eliot in 1936. At about the same time, Seferis also began publishing poetry of his own, releasing Turning Point in 1931 and The Cistern in 1932.

The Cistern, a lyric poem of twenty-five five-line stanzas (one of them containing nothing but dots), already reflects the profound influence of Eliot. Rhythms are more typical of English pentameter lines than...

(The entire section is 772 words.)