George Seferis' Journals

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Spent much of the weekend engrossed in this book by George Seferis, a most fascinating document:

IBIS EDITIONS
is pleased to announce

A LEVANT JOURNAL
BY GEORGE SEFERIS

Translated , Edited, and Introduced by Roderick Beaton
965-90125-6-X, paper $16.95, 170 pages

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Greek poet, essayist, diarist, and diplomat George Seferis stands as one of the giants of twentieth-century literature. His poetry has long been recognized for its lyric purity, its charged sense of history, and its economy. His no-less marvelous prose extends his preoccupation with tradition into a more daily register, and his journals, in particular, graph the meeting of the poet’s sensibility and the landscape where present confronts past.
A Levant Journal offers selections from the notebooks Seferis kept during his diplomatic postings in the region. Covering the years 1941–44 and 1953–56, they record his detailed impressions of Cairo, Jerusalem, Beirut, Amman, Damascus, Cyprus, the Dead Sea, and various other sites he visited while working there. With characteristic vividness and concision, Seferis reflects both on what he sees and what lies behind (and ahead of) the visible, as the journals include superb passages of travel writing and meditations on the Levant’s Hellenistic legacy, the holy sites of the region, the history of prominent British women travelers to the area, the future of British imperialism, and of course the turbulent politics of his day. Elegantly translated and introduced by Roderick Beaton, the journal moves between private and public dimensions of the poet’s life and provide an intimate look into Seferis’s world.

“Seferis was to Greece what Eliot was to English-speaking lands—a poetic spokesman for the displaced, the lost, the fragmented lives of that generation for whom World War I was the rite of passage into the modern world.”

The Christian Science Monitor

“[Seferis] is more Asiatic than any of the Greeks I met … He is the arbiter and reconciler of conflicting schools of thought and ways of life. He asks innumerable questions in a polyglot language; he is interested in all forms of cultural expression and seeks to abstract and assimilate what is genuine and fecundating in all epochs…. He had a way of looking forwards and backwards, of making the object of his contemplation revolve and show forth its multiple aspects. When he talked about a thing or a person or an experience he caressed it with his tongue.”
Henry Miller

George Seferis was born in Smyrna in 1900 and moved with his family to Athens when he was fourteen. He was appointed to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1926 and subsequently served in Athens, England, and Albania, before accompanying the Greek government in exile to Crete, Egypt, and South Africa. He was stationed in Cairo from 1942–44 and served as Ambassador to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq from 1953–56. His books of poems include Mythistorema (1935), Thrush (1947), and Logbook I, II, III (1940, 1944, 1955). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963 and died in Athens 1971.

Roderick Beaton is Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature, King’s College London (University of London). He is the author of the Ariadne’s Children, a novel, numerous scholarly works on modern Greek literature, and, mostly recently, George Seferis, Waiting for the Angel: A Biography, which the New York Times Book Review called “gripping reading … definitive.”

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