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Complete Poems Paperback – May 22, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Extraordinary.” —Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
 
“Cavafy’s distinctive tone—wistfully elegiac but resolutely dry-eyed—has captivated English-language poets from W. H. Auden to James Merrill to Louise Glück. . . . Mendelsohn’s new translations not only bring us closer to one of the great poets of the twentieth century; [they] also reinvigorate our relationship to the English language . . . Like Richard Howard’s Baudelaire or Robert Pinsky’s Dante, Mendelsohn’s Cavafy is itself a work of art.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“Brilliant . . . With his passionate reading of this poet-historian . . . Mendelsohn has created not only an essential guide to Cavafy for English-speaking readers, but has likely shaped our understanding of the greatest writer of modern Greek for generations to come.” —Boston Review
 
“Eloquent . . . [This is] the Cavafy of a brilliant critic who has a true and deep affinity for the poet—and who has succeeded in giving him to us whole for the first time.” —The Nation
 
“Thrilling . . . Mendelsohn is such a felicitous interpreter of Cavafy . . . The explanatory essays he has attached to almost every poem can contain every bit as much passion and humanity as the poet’s own work.” —Harper’s Magazine
 
“Superb . . . Mendelsohn’s translations are not only skillful, but elegant; best of all, they catch the music of the originals.” —The New Criterion
 
“A vigorous labor of literary love . . . The poems fully embody Cavafy the sensualist and the antiquarian and his distinctive lyric shuttling between the ancient and the modern worlds.” —Billy Collins
 
“With deep feeling, exacting care, and extraordinary intelligence, Mendelsohn has given us a stunning new Cavafy . . . All of us who care about literature are indebted to Mendelsohn for bringing forward a splendid addition to our understanding of a poet whose work is lit by bright starry sparks of the eternal.” —Edward Hirsch

About the Author

Daniel Mendelsohn was born on Long Island and studied classics at the University of Virginia and at Princeton. His reviews and essays on literary and cultural subjects appear frequently in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. His books include a memoir, The Elusive Embrace, a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; the international best seller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; and a collection of essays, How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken. He teaches at Bard College.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Tra edition (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700897
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had already bought the two-volume hardcover edition. (It is a pity that this edition is not also in a hardcover form considering it is slightly revised.) I have no more than a smattering of modern greek; but I have eleven different english translations of at least the Canon. Comparing Professor Mendelsohn's translation of "The God Abandons Anthony" (my favourite) with those and the original greek, I find his exemplary. N.B. Professor Mendelsohn's surname IS spelt with only one "s"---consult your own image of the cover.
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This new translation has extensive notes. It's very helpful. If you love Cavafy, you will love this new translation. If you are unfamiliar with Cavafy, this is a great introduction.
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I must say that I am partial to the Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard translations. Simply put, they are more accessible, poetic and evocative. I admit that Mendelsohn has done a yeoman's work in looking anew at the poems and offering these translations and he must be commended. However, they are mostly clunky, oblong and cumbersome, however "accurate" they may academically be. The introduction makes a very clear case for the approach but in practice I find it unconvincing. All that said, I am still glad I bought the book. The more Cavafy the better!
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Mendelsohn has completely retranslated all of Cavafy into English. As he says in the Introduction, [Cavafy's poetry is] "deeply, hauntingly rhythmical, sensuously assonant when not actually rhyming. It seemed to me worthwhile to try to replicate these elements whenever it was possible to do so." Since I know no Greek, my previous exposure to Cavafy has been the Dalven translation, and while the latter adequately captures the sense of Cavafy's poems, the Mendelsohn translations are remarkable for their blend sense and sound. To pick one small example from hundreds of pages, the poem "Second Odyssey" begins: A second Odyssey and a great one, too, / greater than the first, perhaps. But alas, / without a Homer, without Hexameters. Mendelsohn's lucid introduction and detailed notes are essential for the modern American reader with no special background in Hellenic and Hellenistic culture and the Greek diaspora. I now appreciate much of Cavafy far more deeply than I did before. Altogether the book is an amazing amalgam of scholarship and art. Between the freshness of the poetry and the wonderful annotations it's hard to find a poem that doesn't "work," and many more now seem extraordinary.
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Mendelsohn provides a thorough and thoughtful discussion of Cavafy's poetry: the historical background for Cavafy, his Hellenistic interests, his use of demotic and classical Greek ,his preferred subjects The analysis of Cavafy's style, his attention to meter and rhyme is especially helpful and of particular interest is the history of the "unpublished poems," poems translated into English here for the first time.
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