Odysseus Elytis


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(1911–96) Greek poet. Born in Heraklion, Crete, he was educated in Athens and at the Sorbonne. He became associated with the so-called ‘Thirties Generation’ of poets, including George Seferis, who were much influenced by Paul Éluard and other members of the French Surrealist movement. His most famous poem, To Axion Esti (1959; trans. Edmund Keeley and George Davidis, 1974), is divided into three sections: ‘The Genesis’ introduces an innocent first person who, in ‘The Passion’, is witness to the horrors of the Second World War; in ‘The Gloria’, despite the destruction he has witnessed, he expresses his excitement at discovering he is still able to find beauty in the world. Like much of his work, the Axion Esti combines a vivid sense of Greece's history and cultural heritage, sacred and secular, with a very personal perspective. Elytis's approach to the Greek language is original, and often favours flourishes of sound, rhythm, and image over meaning which is frequently opaque or elusive. He published seventeen volumes of poetry, numerous translations, and two volumes of critical essays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979. The first complete collection of his poetry in English was published in 1997.

From The Oxford Companion to English Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.