Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cavafy in English accents

Everything is Greece to the wise man”, said Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana, at the beginning of the third century AD. The assertion was at once true and defiant: despite the dominance of Rome, Greek was the lingua franca of anyone of intellectual pretensions in the known world. The defiance was both manifest and implicit in Pausanias’s second-century catalogue raisonné of the classical monuments of mainland Hellas: his Description of Greece makes no mention of the temple which the Romans had built adjacent to the Parthenon. Pausanias ignores what all contemporary Greeks found it painful to acknowledge: their long subjection to Rome.’  —Frederick Raphael in the 28.5.14 TLS.

1 comment:

Terry said...

The reviewer, it seems to me, goes to great showy lengths to take his own possession of Cavafy, thereby demeaning Mendelsohn's work. What he says about Cavafy's attitude toward the British struck me as misplaced. His family pretended to "old roots" in Constantinople in an effort to enhance their mercantile associations. This was a time in Alexandria when Greeks of British protection, like the Cavafys, flooded the consular courts with suits against other Greek traders. They were entirely disconnected from Egyptians. It's telling that Cavafy "never entered an Arab Egyptian house" or ever had an Egyptian lover.