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...
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