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Cavafy Archive Opens to Public in Athens

Cavafy museum
The Cavafy Archive, dedicated to the revered Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, opened its doors to the public in downtown Athens today, November 22nd. Credit: Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC)

The Onassis Foundation announced the opening of the Cavafy Archive, a significant cultural site in downtown Athens, to the public. Dedicated to the renowned Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), the archive began welcoming visitors today on November 22, 2023 in Plaka.

The Cavafy Archive is a curated space showcasing the poet’s manuscripts, personal effects, and archives. The collection, composed of two thousand items, encompasses poems, artifacts, literary and personal archives, 966 books from Cavafy’s library, as well as assorted documents and artworks linked to the poet.

Positioned on Frynichou Street in Plaka, the archive represents a significant addition to downtown Athens and marks a milestone in Cavafy research. The public unveiling coincides with the 160th anniversary of Cavafy’s birth, honoring his pivotal role in Greek and Western poetry. The foundation emphasizes that this space is accessible to researchers and the general public, and all are welcome.

Constantine Cavafy’s Life and Work

Konstantinos Kavafis, internationally recognized as Constantine Peter Cavafy, was a celebrated Greek poet born in Alexandria, Egypt on April 29, 1863. He was from the family of the wealthy merchant Petros-Ioannou Kavafis and was the youngest of nine children.

Although his poems were never published in book form during his lifetime, Cavafy gained international recognition through contributions to newspapers and magazines. His first book of poems, comprising 154 works, was posthumously published in 1935.

Cavafy spent part of his childhood in England and his teenage years in Constantinople. Upon returning to Alexandria in 1885, he acquired Greek citizenship and pursued a career in journalism and brokering. Notable works, including “Candles,” “Walls,” and “Waiting for the Barbarians,” marked his poetic journey. Cavafy’s renowned poem, “Ithaca,” penned in 1911, stands as one of his most celebrated works. This masterpiece reflects his journey and philosophical reflections.

In 1902, the poet visited Greece for the first time. Later settling in Alexandria, he dedicated the rest of his life to writing influential poems, with his reputation attracting renowned visitors. His friendship with the English author Edward Morgan Forster rewarded him with international attention. Forster introduced the poet to the English-speaking world in 1923, famously describing him as “a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe.”

In 1922, Cavafy resigned from his public service job, allowing him to focus entirely on his poetry. His health declined in subsequent years, and he succumbed to cancer in 1933. By a strange coincidence, he died on the same day he was born on April 29th, leaving an indelible mark on modern Greek poetry.

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