Constantine P. Cavafy (29/04/1863 - 29/04/1933)

Constantine P. Cavafy Constantine P. Cavafy is one of the most important Greek poets of modern times.

He was born in 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt, where his parents went after leaving Istanbul in 1840. There, he studied Greek, English and French and also attended school at the Greek School of Alexandria. After the death of his father and the dissolution of the family business, the family went to Liverpool and later London, UK, where they stayed until 1876. They went back to Alexandria, but in 1882, they moved to Istanbul. Three years later, he returned to his birthplace. He never left Alexandria again, except to visit Paris in 1897 and Athens in 1903.

He first started publishing poetry in 1886, influenced by Athenian romantic poets, but his characteristic tone is evident in poems written after 1891. Although most of his readers and fellow poets outside Greece had their initial contact with his sensual poems, Cavafy is characterized by a unique combination of verbal and dramatic sarcasm.

In 1932, Cavafy was admitted to a hospital in Athens, suffering from cancer of the larynx; returning back to Alexandria, his health deteriorated even further. He was admitted to the Greek Community Hospital, where he died on 29 April 1933, on his 70th birthday.

Cavafy, today, is known not only within the Greek borders, but also worldwide, as his poems were translated in French, English, German and other languages, reaching a much wider audience. He has written 154 poems known as the Recognized, 37 poems written in his youth which he renounced, 75 anecdotes that he didn’t manage to publish, and 30 unfinished ones. In 1904, and in 1910, he did a self-publication of his poems in few copies, which he offered to his own people. In 1935, it was the first publishing of his complete works (the 154 poems) and was sold out instantly. Two reprints were issued after 1948.

Cavafy classified his poems in three categories: historic, sensual and philosophical poems. Thus, in his poems, one may find eroticism, his philosophical views and his historic knowledge. Concerning the first category, most of his poems are inspired by the Hellenistic period; his heroes are historical or fictional figures, moving around cities of the Eastern Mediterranean, especially Alexandria. These historic poems are further divided in pseudohistoric, which use historic facts allegorically, seemingly historic, which use fictional characters in a historic background, and historic. Finally, his sensual poems deal with memories of realized or unrealized loves in his effort to express his own desires (Cavafy may have been homosexual, although this is a matter of controversy).

The apartment where Cavafy lived in Alexandria has since been converted into a museum. Nowadays, the museum holds sketches, original manuscripts and pictures of and by Cavafy.

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