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He is regarded as one of the greatest poets of his time. He is passionate about his country and his people, not in a hidebound chauvinistic way but as a result of patient discovery following upon years of absence abroad. After he completed his law degree, Seferis entered the diplomatic service, in which he made his professional career, first in Athens, where he worked in the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs from to and then in the Greek Consulate in London from to He was consul at Koritsa in Albania from to Upon the Nazi invasion of Greece on 6 April , Seferis issued one of his most passionate statements to the foreign press, in which he remarked:.
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This morning Greece withstood the aggression of a great Empire, which adds ,, of its inhabitants to the 45,, of those who attacked us at the Albanian front We are a small nation, but have vast experience. We recognize that the fate of certain nations is always to oppose certain forces of evil.
It is not the first time that Greece fulfills this destiny. Seferis married Maria Maro Zannou in April , directly after which he, like other members of the Greek government, fled the Greek mainland for the island of Crete and subsequently went into exile.
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After a brief stay in Egypt, he went on to South Africa , where he worked in the Greek Embassy in Pretoria from to From there, he went to Italy in and returned to Athens after the liberation in , where he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until He was later appointed counselor to the embassies in Ankara and London , ambassador to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq , and finally ambassador to England In he was made a member of the Greek delegation to the United Nations in New York during talks over the Cyprus conflict. After this final post, he retired from the diplomatic service and returned to Athens in In retrospect, however, this judgment seems cast too hastily, for the verse of earlier Greek poets, such as Constantine Cavafy and Kostas Karyotakis, had already exhibited signs of moving away from conventional modes of versification in Greek poetics and embracing aspects of modernism, especially its predilections for aestheticism and decadence.
In Strophe , Seferis still adhered to the staid convention of rhymed verse; yet, he varied his technique, alternating between disciplined metric patterns and prosaic forms. Using a linguistic register that was reflective of his social class, he introduced a diction that also paid homage to his literary predecessors—Homer; Vincentzos Kornaros, seventeenth-century Cretan Renaissance poet of the Erotokritos; and nineteenth-century Ioannis Makryannis, whose Memoirs Seferis went on to hold in his lectures and literary criticism of the s as an exemplary model of the demotic folk tradition.
The poem lent itself to another symbolist poetic practice, musicality; it was put to music by renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis. Through such modes, poetry was made accessible to a mass audience: these modes illustrate the dominance of the oral tradition in Greek popular consciousness throughout several epochs of its evolution.
The distance between high and low culture in the Greek context is markedly shorter than it is in the European and Anglo-American traditions; while Anglo-American and European literature attained aesthetic autonomy by the modernist period, in Greece, according to Gregory Jusdanis, it still remained part of the social praxis. Recalling the mood of a distinct moment in an undisclosed, foreign, urban place, the narrator becomes continuously displaced by fragmented thoughts of other voices.
Beyond the specific case of Seferis, this technique has been viewed as an example of how modernism problematizes the idea of representing a fixed form of reality, which some critics, such as Brian McHale, have interpreted as a broader crisis in epistemology:. What particularly distinguishes Seferis is his use of symbols. In its adherence to such principles, symbolist poetry, just as many other modernist texts, lent itself to multiple interpretations.
With the publication of Sterna ; The Cistern , Seferis demonstrates the beginnings of what became his stock metaphors and symbols: landscape, stones, shattered fragments and statues, which acquired a more specific ideological charge in his more mature poems, Mythistorema, Logbooks I-III , and Kichle. This ideological charge was endemic of a set of values that defined Greek national identity in relation to ancient Greek culture and language, and Seferis played an instrumental role in defining the essence of the claim of modern Greece to that illustrious tradition.
The stones in these lines have been interpreted by critics over the years to signify the burden of the ancient past on modern Greek consciousness. But the debilitating effect of the weight of this tradition is conveyed as being one of dismemberment and mutilation:. Consciousness of the past as it weighs on the modern psyche had defined the essence of Greek national identity since the early stages of Greek nation building in the nineteenth century.
The adoption of an historical model, which held antiquity as the point of origin and as an illustrious ideal, permeated all facets of Greek national culture from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries in its forms of political and social organization, educational institutions, and modes of artistic expression. It was based on a model of continuity, which sought to link the various epochs of Greek history, from the ancient and Byzantine to the modern, and which—according to Michael Herzfeld, Loring Danforth, and Jusdanis—had imprinted itself in Greek national consciousness as far back as the Greek Enlightenment and consolidated itself within intellectual circles after the formation of the nation-state in within the evolving epistemologies of disciplines such as philology, historiography, folklore, and pedagogy.
Adherence to such an historical model postulated, above all, a comparison between the ancients and moderns—the cultural achievements of the former toward which the moderns continuously strived. In European Romanticism, for example, the well-known painting The Artist in Despair over the Magnitude of Antique Fragments circa by Swiss artist Henry Fuseli displays an ancient fragment of a large foot being contemplated by the contemporary artist. Fuseli projects the ineffectuality of the artist in grappling with the ruins of a formidable and authoritative classical tradition that remains remote and distant to modern consciousness.
The artist here, according to Timothy Webb, is not overcome by nostalgia for a golden and superior past, but rather appears dejected and overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy when he compares himself to that tradition. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Seller Inventory GRP More information about this seller Contact this seller 4.
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