Μelbourne’s Antipodes Writers Festival (AWF) is this year being dedicated to the work of CP Cavafy. Born within the once thriving Greek community in Alexandria of Egypt, Cavafy (April 29, 1863 – April 29, 1933) is regarded as one of the foremost modern Greek poets and one of the finest poets of the 20th century. He was instrumental in establishing modern Greek poetry on the international scene, where he is still being studied and translated into many languages well into the 21st century. 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the renowned poet’s birth.
Cavafy gained the critical attention he deserved after his death in 1933. “His life was an enigma, but his poems about ancient Alexandria and his longings for a ‘Hellenic kind of pleasure’ offer insights into a passionate”, commented Duncan Spratt in his article ‘The naked civil servant’ for The Guardian.
He goes on to write “(When I was 18) I didn’t know the name of Cavafy, but he sounded exotic, intriguing. He had a passion for the Greek and Roman past. He also had a passion for young men. He wasn’t afraid to write about sex; his poems oozingly erotic. I rushed out and bought the Complete Poems and read all night.”
The AWF weekend at The Wheeler Centre will see five international academics unravel some the multiple layers of his work. Speakers include George Syrimis (Yale University), Gregory Jusdanis (Ohio State University), Maria Boletsi (Leiden University), Karen Emmerich (University of Oregon) and Dimitris Papanikolaou (University of Oxford). Vrasidas Karalis from the University of Sydney will also take part in a session on Sunday 23 June, discussing the topic of ‘C.P. Cavafy as a moral thinker’.
On Sunday afternoon at 3pm, the wider community is invited to share a Date with Cavafy, when lovers of Cavafy’s work can come along and read their favourite piece. A number of guest speakers will also be part of this session including, author and ABC Radio presenter Phil Kafcaloudes, writer Hariklia Heristanidis and local actor and director Tony Nikolakopoulos.
A special addition to the weekend program will be a screening of The Barbarians, an immersive opera by Constantine Koukias inspired by the iconic poet and commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art. Otherness is a central theme of Constantine Cavafy’s poem ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’; written in 1904, it is one of Cavafy’s most important works. The poem echoes the dramatic traditions of Ancient Greek Theatre and resonates with today’s eco-political environment.