Giorgos Seferis

1900 –

Giorgos Seferis was born Giorgos Seferiadis on February 29, 1900, to Stelios and Despo Seferiades in Smyrna, Greece. Seferis and his family settled in Athens in 1914 to escape the devastation of World War I. After law studies in Paris, he joined the Greek foreign service. In 1926 he was appointed to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He lived in Athens and served his post until 1931, when he was appointed to the Greek Consulate in London. In 1941 he married Maria Zannou, who accompanied him to exile in Crete, Egypt, and later South Africa, where the Greek government was exiled. After numerous government positions, Seferis eventually retired as ambassador to England.

Influenced by the French symbolists, and later by T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, Seferis wrote most of his twelve books of poetry, essays, translations, diaries, and fiction while posted overseas. Strophe (1931) marked the advent of modernism in Greece. His work was translated by Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, and Rex Warner, among others. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1963, the first Greek to be so honored. Collected Poems, 1924-1955 (1967), Three Secret Poems (1969), On the Greek Style (1966), and Days of 1945-1951 (1974) are among his English editions.

Seferis's verse is spare, hermetic, and characterized by a profound knowledge of Greek history and classical mythology and a deep understanding of Greece's past and its relevance to her present and future. Several of his finest poems--"In the Manner of G.S.," "Helen," "Against Whitehorns"--are prophetic of momentous political events. In the words of the Swedish Academy, Seferis's verse symbolizes "all that is indestructible in the Hellenic acceptance of life." He died on September 21, 1971, after extended hospitalization. His funeral in Athens drew a huge crowd and was linked to the protest movement against the dictatorial regime.