Friday, 1 August 2014

C.P. Cavafy

A few days ago I mentioned that there would be here in the island a ‘literary evening’ at our new bookshop/café about the great Alexandrian Grecophone poet Costas Cavafy. This duly took place  yesterday evening, with a talk by Aris Laskaratos, publisher of David Connolly’s new translation (about the fourteenth, but there’s room for more) of Cavafy’s poems into English, and a talk by me about getting lost in Alexandria trying to find the flat where Cavafy had lived. (I did finally succeed, just as I was about to give up.) Poems were read by three young women: Margarita (13), Anastasia (14) and Vaia (17 I think). The eldest of these included one of Cavafy’s somewhat raunchy poems, about a very brief homosexual affair.

Below is my English translation of a Cavafy poem not included in David’s selection:


In the Dives…

In the dives                                                                             and bordellos
of Beirut I wallow.                                                     I didn’t want to stay
in Alexandria; not I.                                                   Tamides has left me:
he’s gone with the mayor’s son                                            just to get
a Nile villa                                                                  and a house in town.
It wouldn’t do to stay                                                in Alexandria —
In the dives                                                                 and bordellos
of Beirut I wallow.                                                     In cheap debauch
I squander my life.                                                    All that saves me
like a lasting beauty,                                     like a lingering scent
that stays on my flesh,                                              is for two years I had
Tamides my own,                                                      that magnificent boy,
and not for a house                                                    or a villa on the Nile.



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