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Today we celebrate the beloved Greek poet Constantine Cavafy

Today we celebrate the beloved Greek poet Constantine Cavafy

Πηγή Φωτογραφίας: Ημεροδρομος- Efsyn

Cavafy continues to be a source of inspiration for many and his work still serves as a bridge through which cultures from different backgrounds connect.

Today we celebrate the beloved Greek poet Constantine Cavafy. He was born on the 29th April 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt. Cavafy passed away in 1933, on the day of his 70th birthday, suffering from larynx cancer.

To this day, Cavafy continues to be a source of inspiration for many and his work still serves as a bridge through which cultures from different backgrounds connect.

Shortly before the almost global coronavirus lockdown, Styliani Voutsa, a Professor of Spanish Linguistics, held a couple of symposiums at the Instituto Cervantes – Spanish Cultural Center in Egypt. The theme: the parallelism between Cavafy and the Spanish remarkable poet Jaime Gil de Biedma, which was the subject of Styliani’s Ph.D.

The event took place to familiarise the public with the Spanish poet, subsequent to naming the Bibliotheca Cervantes in Alexandria after him. For the attendees who wanted to enjoy the works of both poets, Styliani showed some books, including Cavafy’s poetry collections translated to Spanish, the work of Jaime Gil de Biedma and translations of Cavafy’s prose works.

Cavafy was born into a family of high status and his father was a cotton merchant. After his father died in 1870, Cavafy and his family faced financial problems. Alongside his mother and eight brothers, they relocated in England, as his fathers’ business had branches there.

He never studied at university; nevertheless, he was fluent in English (he stayed in England for eight years) and French. Furthermore, he loved reading and his favourite theme was history. Afterwards, he returned with his mother to Alexandria. “We Greeks call him The Alexandrian,” mentioned Styliani in this regard.

Regarding Jaime Gil de Biedma (1929-1990), he was born in Barcelona (Spain) into a wealthy family. He studied law in Barcelona and Salamanca (Spain). Afterwards, he worked for a tobacco company and spent long periods in Manila (Philippines).

“Jaime Gil de Beidma studied at the University of Salamanca, which is one of the oldest universities not only in Spain, but in Europe as well. This is why achieving my Ph.D. at the mentioned university makes me proud,” she commented.

The Spanish poet belonged to the so called ‘Generation of the Fifties’ (School of Barcelona) that gathered remarkable writers. A year after his death (1991), he was recognised by the literary magazine Ínsula as the most popular poet of the year.

Constantine Cavafy’s literary treasure:

As in the case of some writers identified by their cities – such as Portuguese Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon), Czech Franz Kafka (Prague), and Nikos Kazantzakis (Crete Island) – Cavafy is recognised by Alexandria. “You hear Cavafy, you immediately think of Alexandria and vice versa,” expressed Styliani.

Cavafy’s poems are divided into the following categories: philosophical or didactic poems, erotic-hedonistic poems, and historical and pseudo-historical poems (pseudo-historical means that the poem seems historical, but its characters are unreal). Cavafy’s favourite period was the Hellenistic age (the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC till the Battle of Actuim in 31 BC).

“Since we are in Egypt, I recommend you read Cavafy’s poem ‘Alexandrian Kings‘ that depicts a feast celebrated in the time of Cleopatra, Anthony, and their sons including Caesarion,” she added in this respect.

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