George Seferis


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Greek poet, critic, and diplomat. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963.

Seferis was born at Smyrna but at the outbreak of World War I left it, never to return (the Greek community did not survive there after 1922). A sense of exile and of the loss of his birthplace colours much of his work. He was educated at Athens and the Sorbonne, graduating in law in 1924. After two years spent studying English in London he joined the Greek diplomatic corps, working in London until 1934 and during World War II serving in various posts with the Greek government-in-exile. From 1957 until his retirement in 1962 he was ambassador to Britain. His denunciation of the dictatorship of the Papadopoulos regime in 1969 was an act of great courage and at his funeral in Athens he was honoured not only for his cultural but also for his political achievement.

While vice-consul in London in 1931 he read and was influenced by the works of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. His first volumes, Strophe (1931; ‘Turning-Point’) and I Sterna (1932; ‘The Cistern’), also owe something to Rimbaud, Laforgue, and Valéry. Seferis's ability to combine traditional elements, everyday diction, and demotic and folk-poetry materials had an immensely invigorating effect on modern Greek poetry. His own work had the added authority of his first-hand familiarity with the great historical events of his time. His collections include Mythistorema (1935) and a series of poetic ‘logbooks’, Himeralogion katastromatos (I, 1940; II, 1944; III, 1965). Dokimes (1962; translated as On the Greek Style, 1966) is generally held to be the best work of literary criticism on modern Greek. Seferis's A Poet's Journal: days of 1945–1951 (1974) has been translated by A. Anagnostopoulos, and Collected Poems, 1924–55 by E. Keeley and P. Sherrard.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Literature.

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