CAVAFY'S ALEXANDRIA: Study of a Myth in Progress by Edmund Keeley

CAVAFY'S ALEXANDRIA: Study of a Myth in Progress

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The ""myth in progress"" of the title--the poetic works of C. P. Cavafy--has received a good deal of attention in the past two years, from the appearance of Edmund Kelley's translations of Cavafy's poems to Robert Liddell's ney critical biography of the poet (p. 1014). This, however, is the first book-length treatment of Cavafy's oeuvre in strictly hterary terms, and Keeley concentrates on defining three composite images that contribute to an Alexandrian mythology in the mature poems. The first he calls Cavafy's ""sensual city,"" an Alexandria of rich tastes and beautiful Greek youths who, likely as not, die early from a glut of love. The second image took root and ripened from the first; it's the ancient, often-conquered Alexandrian province, where the most intense historical moments are those of sensuality, impending loss, destruction, and self-conscious memory. In this genre Cavafy wrote his most ambitious poems--""The God Abandons Antony"" and ""From the School of the Renowned Philosopher,"" for instance--and created his many parallels between antique and modern Alexandria. The third set of images describes the greater Hellenistic world of ancient Syria, Byzantium, and Egypt, and enlarges the other poems by providing a macrocosmic perspective for them. Keeley makes a persuasive argument that together Cavafy's poetic works represent a sometimes eccentric, nationalistic, but triumphantly imaginative mythology in which courage and pride work best under historical stress.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press