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“The Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy”

C. P. Cavafy: Collected PoemsThe Greek poet C. P. Cavafy’s poetic distillation of his circumstances (an old family fallen on hard times; cosmopolitan; a closeted gay man in the early 1900s) are gathered in the new translation by Daniel Mendelsohn, “The Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy,” published by Knopf. “All his life, he was drawn to what was lost: forgotten Greek kingdoms on the edge of the Roman empire, backwaters of Byzantium, beautiful boys glimpsed once or briefly held and never seen again,” writes the Nation. Cavafy’s poetry was rarely published in his lifetime but the last years have produced an outpouring of translations. Despite the clutter, Mendelsohn distinguishes himself. Although Cavafy’s poems are routinely divided into the categories of historical and erotic, Mendelsohn argues that such a division is irrelevant. “In Cavafy’s world, everything has already happened. The fortune is spent, the pantheon abandoned, the body grown old. This overpowering sense of belatedness is what provokes the tone of his poems — rueful, distanced, knowing but never wise,” writes the New York Times. With an excellent ear for Cavafy’s Greek, Mendelsohn delivers the reader to Cavafy’s era and allows the poet to speak his ageless wisdom.

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