Yorgos Séferis: why Cyprus was so important for the Greek Literature Nobel Prize

Yorgos Seferis

Born in Izmir (Turkey) in 1900, Yorgos Seferis He was a poet, essayist, translator and diplomat who in 1963 became the first Greek writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

He began to write his poems and verses from the age of 14 and in his adulthood he joined the Greek diplomatic service, where he had an extensive career, as vice consul in London, acting consul general in Albania, diplomatic representative in Egypt, during the Second World War; embassy counselor in London after the war and finally ambassador to Ankara, Lebanon and London.

The son of a renowned lawyer and writer, he inherited a taste for books from his father. He began his writing career in 1931, with a collection of poems called “Vuelta”. In 1932 he published the poem “La Cistern”. Although he always confessed his admiration for authors such as Mallarmé, Paul Valéry and André Gide, for many of his biographers his encounter with T. S. Eliot, whose writing style was quite influential.

In the early thirties he published his volume of poetry strofi (The crucial moment). The following year appeared I Sterna. By 1935 it came out Mythistorima.

Although one of the works that brings the author closer in his life, in Cyprus, is the book Cyprus. Yorgos Seferis (poems, photographs, fragments).

Yorgos Seferis
Yorgos Seferis

This book is not only translations of the originals, it also has photographs that Yorgos himself took in the place and fragments taken from the letters that the winner sent to his friend Yorgos Sawidis, a specialist in his work.

selma ancira was in charge of editing, translating and commenting on the award-winning work of Literary Translation Tomas Segoviain addition to the participation of the essayist Francisco Segovia.

Selma Ancira has been one of the people who has come closest to Yorgos’s work, and in the translation she does, passion, careful work, and the poetic and lyrical talent of Francisco Segovia are combined.

“After many years of working with Seferis, I discovered that he ignored facets of his personality that was disturbing to me: he had visited Cyprus three times and he was an excellent photographer, what I found out by chance, I wanted to make a book that brought together everything he had written about the island. It seemed fascinating to me to undertake that adventure”, shared Selma Ancira.

In addition, this book has the footprints that followed the poet, as they discovered places that his poems speak of. In the same way that they used concepts that were not clear to them.

In the book you can read the poems of Log III which the author dedicated to Cyprus, since Seferis and his wife Maró they visited three times: the first two trips lasted more than a month, while the third trip was short.

Yorgos Seferis
Yorgos Seferis

When Yorgos visits Cyprus, he does so with a copy of Historic Cyprus. A guide to its cities and towns, monasteries and castles written by Rupert Gunnisthis book being the first source of many of the historical episodes of Log III.

In his speech that he gave when he won the Nobel Prize, Yorgos mentioned that not only has the Irish poet helped the Greeks a lot, but “I cannot conceive that any of us, knowing the tribute that the Swedes have paid to my country, can forget all the good that the Swedes have done for Greece with altruism, patience and benevolence, whether it was their archaeologists in peacetime or the Red Cross missions during the war”.

The poet also mentioned that in relation to the poetry of modern Greece “There is no shortage of strange cases and figures.”

“It would have been much more natural, for example, if the poetry of a town of sailors, peasants and soldiers had begun with simple and crude songs. But the opposite happened. It began with a man born in Zante, guided by the demon of the absolute.”

Seferis, the most important Greek poet of the pre-war generation of the 1930s, died on September 20, 1971.

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Yorgos Séferis: why Cyprus was so important for the Greek Literature Nobel Prize