Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963, 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 Beirut, Amman, Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Cyprus, Jerusalem, 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. As such, the journals move between private and public dimensions of the poet’s life and provide an intimate look into Seferis’s world.
Winner of the 2008 TLS-Hellenic Foundation for Culture Translation Prize.
“A jewel of a book, which has the look and feel of an actual journal you might tuck into a capacious overcoat pocket…. Seferis has a diarist’s perfect pitch for dialogue and anecdote, which range from the humorous to the tragic.”
A.E. Stallings, Poetry
“A Levant Journal is that rare book that will appeal to aesthetes and politicos alike…. In these intimate writings, Seferis bears witness to our folly with such care and precision that we may begin to understand some of our own mad impulses.”
Christopher Merrill, Wilson Quarterly
“A Levant Journal shows us the master … in two intense periods of his professional life, out of which he made great poetry. Roderick Beaton’s long dedication to Seferis is evident on every page of his translation and introduction, and all lovers of Greek literature will want this book.”
Jeffrey Carson, The Athens News
“Seferis describes the difficulties of work and the anxieties of daily life as a diplomat being whisked from post to post to serve in Amman, Cairo, Cyprus, Damascus, Jerusalem…. We see these places as Seferis saw them … and we are touched by his observations.”
“[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.”
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, London, 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 Ariadne’s Children, a novel, numerous scholarly works on modern Greek literature, and, most recently, George Seferis, Waiting for the Angel: A Biography, which the New York Times Book Review called “gripping reading … definitive.”
Paperback $16.95 160 pages ISBN 965-90125-6-X
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