A word that has been on everyone’s lips in the last couple of years is “Europe”: a concept at times simple, at times deeply complex. Regardless of your view on the current social and political developments, your nationality and experience, time has surely made you wonder what this term, at times mysterious, at times problematic, means and is.
The name Europe derives from the Greek language and intertwines with Greek mythology, particularly the myth of Europa, the Phoenician girl abducted by Zeus who appeared to her as a bull. The name and the myths have inspired us to choose as the focus of today’s Translation Thursday blog Greece’s rich literary heritage. Here are our top five suggestions and further recommendations for you, ranging from classical verses to daring modern voices.
#1 Crisis by radical poetry publisher Smokestack Books (2014). This collection showcases the work of thirty Greek poets, including Dimitris Angelis, Elsa Korneti, Nektarios Lambropoulos and Kiki Dimoula, who deal with the recent social and political crisis. It is edited by Dinos Siotis, also editor the of literary magazine (de)kata.
#2 Future: Poetry of the Greek Crisis, translated and edited by Theodoros Chiotis (Penned in the Margins, 2015) draws upon similar themes as presented by daring voices in Greek poetry and international poets with Greek connections. These poets express life in the time of capitalism and changing political perspectives.
#3 Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments of Sappho (Penguin Classics, 2009), translated by Aaron Poochigian, brings in the female perspective. This is a translation of the texts and fragments by the famous Greek poetess from the island of Lesbos which have survived through time. It comes with a foreword by Carol Ann Duffy.
Another translation of Sappho’s work is the collection Sappho: Poems and Fragments, translated by Josephine Balmer (Bloodaxe Books, 2018, second, expanded edition), who also wrote the introduction which explores the poetess’ work and Greek society.
A short selection of poems by Sappho are also included in Penguin’s Little Black Classics series, which includes the collection Come Close (2015), presenting poems about love and sexuality. It also includes another translation of Greek classics by Poochigian: the epic love story of Jason and Medea (2015) by Apollonius of Rhodes.
#4 The Axion Esti, by 1979 Novel Prize Winner Odysseus Elytis (Carcanet Press, 2007), translated by George Savidis and Edmund Keeley. This work reflects both Greek heritage and philosophy and Greece’s revolutionary spirit. Elytis talks about his life, war and its aftermath, humanity and spirituality.
Another translation from the Greek by Edmund Keeley, together with Philip Sherrard, is the collection Complete Poems by twentieth-century poet George Seferis (Carcanet Press, 2008), whose poems make think of Eliot’s work.
#5 Selected Poems of Cavafy (Penguin Classics, 2008), a collection of the great twentieth century Alexandrian poet C. P. Cavafy, translated and edited by Avi Sharon, mixing the past with memories and imagination. Poems by Cavafy are also included in Penguin’s Little Black Classics series: in the sentimental, erotic Remember, Body… (2015).
Other publications by contemporary authors we want to mention are:
Affirmation: Selected Poems (1986-2006) by Haris Vlavianos, translated by Mina Karavanta, with a foreword by Michael Longley (Dedalus Press, 2007). Born in Rome in 1957 and grown up in Athens, Vlavianos is the author of several poetry collections, as well as the Greek translator of works by, among others, Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound. This publication is a selection of his poetry.
Absurd Athlete by Yannis Kondos (ARC Publications, 2003, bilingual edition), translated by David Connolly and introduced by David Constantine, shortlisted for the 2005 Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. Kondos is one of the most notable representatives of the post-war generation of Greek poets. This is Kondo’s tenth poetry collection, for which he was awarded the State Prize for Poetry in 1998.
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