Konstantionos Petrou Kabaphes Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Constantine P. Cavafy (kah-VAH-fee) is considered by many the greatest modern Greek poet. Ironically, he actually knew little of Greece, having visited there but twice, and then only briefly. Konstantionos Petrou Kabaphes, born to the family of an importer-exporter, lived in Alexandria until his father’s death in 1876. The thirteen-year-old boy then went to England, where he attended school for three years. After this time in England, he spent three and a half years in Istanbul (then known as Constantinople), the home of his mother’s family. He lived in Alexandria for the rest of his seventy years, except for brief visits to London, Paris, and Athens.{$S[A]Kabaphes, Konstantionos Petrou;Cavafy, Constantine P.}{$S[A]Kavafis, Konstantinos Petrou;Cavafy, Constantine P.}

Little of Cavafy’s poetry was published in his lifetime, although he apparently began writing while still in school. He was a keen judge of his own work, being so dissatisfied with many of his poems that he destroyed the manuscripts. In 1904 he issued one volume of poetry he had had privately printed, containing fourteen poems; enlarged to twenty-one poems, the volume was reprinted five years later. Cavafy permitted friends to have copies of other poems, printed on single broadsheets.

Much of his poetry deals with the Greek past, especially the period of post-Alexandrian Greece; occasionally he set poems in the time of Homer and the era of the Trojan War. In writing of the past Cavafy is precise, subtle, and ironic. Another portion of his work contains personal and erotic poetry. Many of these poems reflect the poet’s homosexuality, discussing the problems of lust, anxiety, guilt, and nostalgia in love as these emotions are experienced by a contemporary homosexual man.