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C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems Hardcover – April 7, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375400966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375400964
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,059,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Already a celebrated critic, memoirist and classicist, Mendelsohn drew together his interests in ancient history, literature, gay life and culture, and beautiful language to produce the finest, most readable version of the modern Greek poet Cavafy (1863–1933) to come along in decades. Cavafy has long been highly regarded by American readers, especially for the straightforward, seemingly timeless, hard-to-pin-down tone of his poems—which alternately revel in and suffer from both ancient Greek history and homoerotic desire—but, as Mendelsohn observes in his deeply impassioned and informative introduction, many American readers overlook those poems that are deliberately set in the obscurer margins, both geographical and temporal, of the Greek past... in favor of the works with more obvious contemporary appeal. With this new, completely annotated, translation, Mendelsohn says he aims to restore the balance, to help readers reanimate Greek history with Cavafy, to see how relevant and pressing his whole oeuvre truly is. This larger volume (Knopf is also publishing Mendelsohn's version of Cavafy's Unfinished Poems, never before translated into English, as a separate volume, reviewed below) contains all the poems by Cavafy we have known in English, from famous works like Ithaka (you will understand, by then, these Ithacas; what they mean) and The First Step (you must claim your right to be/ a citizen of the city of ideas), all rendered with a lucid music. This is likely to be the definitive Cavafy for some time to come. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* The first decade of the twenty-first century ends as it began, with a new, near-complete translation of Cavafy. But whereas Theoharis Constantine Theoharis’ literarily distinguished Before Time Could Change Them (2001) let several naive impressions of Greek-less readers stand, and Aliki Barnstone’s yet more readable Collected Poems of C. P. Cavafy (2006) did nothing to dispel them, Mendelsohn’s effort corrects them. Besides sketching Cavafy’s rather bland life and appraising his poetry as a whole, the introduction explains Cavafy’s poetic techniques and Mendelsohn’s approximation of them in English. Cavafy’s Greek originals are mostly rhymed, metrically regular verses, in familiar forms early on and relaxing into verse paragraphs as he matured. His diction became more demotic as he developed, though he always used bits of nineteenth-century literary Greek for historical and cultural nuance. This technical information may be revelatory for ardent yet unscholarly admirers of the poetry but should only increase their admiration. More revelation, for those who haven’t ferreted out the historical references in the poems, comes in the 282 pages of notes Mendelsohn has written as clearly and gracefully as the introduction. There are at least three older translations than Mendelsohn’s, Barnstone’s, and Theoharis’, and in them Cavafy is the same. But Mendelsohn has gone the extra mile, so to speak. If it was a great effort for him, it is an immensely gratifying pleasure for Cavafians to follow in his footsteps. --Ray Olson

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Coffman on August 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a feast of a book.

Thirty years ago I acquired the translation by Keeley & Sherrard, who were friends of the great Cavafy scholar George Seferis . . . at that time, Cavafy was one of those forbidden pleasures like the PARIS AND NEW YORK DIARIES OF NED ROREM, and OUR LADY OF FLOWERS by Jean Genet that were available in serious LA and New York bookshops of the period.

I was bored by Rorem and Gide, but there were a few great Cavafy poems, it seemed to me at the time, for example "Waiting for the Barbarians", that set apart this late 19th century-early 20th century Greek speaking poet who lived in Alexandria, Egypt from the other merely transgressive, but certainly not transcendent, purveyors of illicit literary pleasures.

I almost didn't bother to pick up the Mendelsohn translation when I saw it in a Sydney bookstore this week, because in my mind I had long ago pigeon-holed Cavafy as a second tier poet of historically subtle poems and of ardent, but somewhat tiresome, gay eroticism.

I am so glad that I bought this book. Reading Cavafy in Mendelsohn's translation is a revelation, a rebirth of a splendid poetic sensibility, and also one of the sure signs of the maturity and stature of American culture in the 21st century, for Mendelsohn is an American. This edition is not simply an accidental conjunction between the poet and a scholar who happened to have a relationship with figures close to Cavafy, it is the union of two complementary and deeply sympathetic spirits, that of Cavafy himself and Mendelsohn. We seem to be emerging from a generation-long desert of American cultural mediocrity imposed upon us by the spiritual tyranny of Theory.

Everything about this edition is first class and saturated in learning and great artistic insight.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John S. LaCasce on July 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This volume is a real pleasure to read. Start with the introduction to get grounded; then read the poems; then skim through the extensive notes on the poems in the back of the book; then return to the poems you really liked to reread them AND the notes that go with them. Getting to know Cavafy is well worth the time.

I did not find the second volume satisfying, however. The unfinished poems were not up to the ones in the main volume. I'd skip it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By so dung bo on November 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Best english translation of the Cavafy Poems so far.
And the notes on the poems by the author are fundamental for a full compreensive and relaxing reading.
Great work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gregory K. Tobkes on August 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you enjoy themes of ancient and Byzantine Greece you will revel in this. Can't comment on translation but must assume it is well done to get publshed in such a handsome edition. One note of caution, many of the images allude to encounters with other men of all ranks and classes. Nevertheless,I got a very vivid picture of Alexandria both current (early 1900's) and ancient.It has a place of honor next to my edition of Robert Graves.
Gregory K. Tobkes
East Meadow, NY
[...]
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harlan on September 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think this must be a really good translation. I read a review to that effect. But the few poems I have read are SO powerful. He is a great writer. I am not really a poetry person, but find Cavafy so emotionally evocative.
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