George Seferis: Waiting for the Angel, a biography by Roderick Beaton (Yale)

This engrossing biography, published in 2003, failed to be noticed even by some of those who regard Seferis as a major poet. Perhaps the absence of a paperback version, or the rising stock of Cavafy over that of Seferis, had something to do with it. The story of Seferis, born in Smyrna in 1900, is the story of the tragedy of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean in the 20th century. Like his father, Seferis was a statesman and bureaucrat, dispatched to Paris, Anatolia, Egypt, South Africa, and at the end of his career, to Britain as the Greek ambassador. Even through the treachery of regime change, wartime occupation, and civil war, Seferis managed to continue to play a role in his country's struggle to emerge as a democracy. At the same time, he developed an unmistakable poetic style with echoes of and gestures derived from the classical Hellenic world. Human tragedy for Seferis wasn't a "topic" -- it was archetypal, merged with the landscape, and thick in his voice. His life story will be invaluable for any writer now trying to grapple with how to portray events and our moment in history. Seferis wrote, "The more an artist is 'true to himself' -- and here I am thinking not so much of his superficial consciousness as of that knowledge that goes deep down to what is least known in human existence -- the more completely will he instill his own time into his work." Keep Edward Keeley's translations of Seferis' poetry alongside as you read this biography -- if you can find it. It has been listed as a remainder in some catalogs.