C. P. Cavafy
The Unfinished Poems
Publication Date: April 7, 2009
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A remarkable discovery, an extraordinary literary event: the never-before translated Unfinished Poems of the great Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, published for the first time in English alongside a revelatory new rendering of the Collected Poems—translated and annotated by the renowned critic, classicist, and award-winning author of The Lost.
When he died in 1933 at the age of seventy, C. P. Cavafy left the drafts of thirty poems among his papers—some of them masterly, nearly completed verses, others less finished texts, all accompanied by notes and variants that offer tantalizing glimpses of the poet’s sometimes years-long method of rewriting and revision. These remarkable poems, each meticulously filed in its own dossier by the poet, remained in the Cavafy Archive in Athens for decades before being published in a definitive scholarly edition in Greek in 1994. Now, with the cooperation and support of the Archive, Daniel Mendelsohn brings this hitherto unknown creative outpouring to English readers for the first time.
Beautiful works in their own right—from a six-line verse on the “birth of a poem” to a longer work that brilliantly paints the autumn of Byzantium in unexpectedly erotic colors—these unfinished poems provide a thrilling window into Cavafy’s writing process during the last decade of his life, the years of his greatest production. They brilliantly explore, often in new ways, the poet’s well-established themes: identity and time, the agonies of desire and the ironies of history, cultural decline and reappropriation of the past. And, like the Collected Poems, the Unfinished Poems offers a substantial introduction and notes that provide helpful historical, textual, and literary background for each poem.
This splendid translation, together with the Collected Poems, is a cause for celebration—the definitive presentation of Cavafy in English.
Daniel Mendelsohn a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker, is the author of the international bestseller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million. He teaches at Bard College.