Renowned scholar, translator and philhellene Edmund Keeley passed away on February 23 at the age of 94.
Also a preeminent essayist and poet, Keeley was responsible for many people’s first encounters with the works of major Greek poets George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis, Constantine Cavafy, Yiannis Ritsos and Angelos Sikelianos through his translations into English, which were faithful to the spirit of the originals.
He also was awarded multiple prizes for his work, for both fiction and translation.
The son of a diplomat, born to American parents in Damascus in 1928, Keeley spent his childhood and youth in Syria, Canada, and in Greece during the interwar period when his father was the American consul in Thessaloniki, before returning to the US.
Edmund Keeley created the Modern Greek Studies Association
An alumnus of both Princeton and Oxford Universities, Keeley taught English and creative writing at Princeton, where he also created the Modern Greek Studies Association in 1968.
Keeley served twice as president of the Modern Greek Studies Association from 1970 to 1973 and 1980 to 1982, and as president of PEN American Center from 1992 to 1994. He retired from a long career of teaching English, creative writing, and Hellenic studies at Princeton University in 1994.
He also served on the editorial boards of the journals Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies, Translation Review, and The Journal of Modern Greek Studies.
His fiction and non-fiction works were often set in Greece, where he spent part of each year, but they were also set elsewhere in Europe and the Balkans as well, where he had frequently traveled, and in Thailand and Washington, D.C.
He lived with his wife Mary Stathato-Kyris, who he married in 1951 in Princeton, New Jersey, until her death in 2012.
In a statement on Keeley’s passing, Greek Culture & Sports Minister Lina Mendoni said that “For Keeley, Greece was more than just a country he got to know well and lived in: It was his second home. We say goodbye to him as a Greek, with tremendous respect to his important work and to his great contribution to the spread of Greek culture.”