Odysseas Elytis (Greek: Οδυσσέας Ελύτης born Οδυσσέας Αλεπουδέλης) (November 2, 1911 – March 18, 1996) was regarded as a major exponent of romantic modernism in Greece and the world. In 1979 he was bestowed with the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Descendant of the Alepoudelis, an old industrial family from Lesbos, Elytis was born in Heraklion on the island of Crete, on November 2, 1911. His family later moved to Athens, where the poet graduated from high school and later attended courses as an auditor at the Law School at University of Athens.
In 1935 Elytis published his first poem in the journal New Letters (Νέα Γράμματα) at the prompting of such friends as George Seferis. His entry with a distinctively earthy and original form assisted to inaugurate a new era in Greek poetry and its subsequent reform after the Second World War.
From 1969-1972, under the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, Elytis exiled himself to Paris. He was romantically linked to the lyricist and musicologist Mariannina Kriezi, who subsequently produced and hosted the legendary children's radio broadcast "Here Lilliput Land". Elytis was intensely private and vehemently solitary in pursuing his ideals of poetic truth and experience.
In 1937 he served his military requirements. As an army cadet, he joined the National Military School in Corfu. During the war he was appointed Second Lieutenant, placed initially at the 1st Army Corps Headquarters, then transferred to the 24th Regiment, on the first-line of the battlefields. Elytis was sporadically publishing poetry and essays after his initial foray into the literary world.
He was a member of the Association of Greek Art Critics, AICA-Hellas, International Association of Art Critics.
Programme director for ERT
He was twice Programme Director of the Greek National Radio Foundation (1945–46 and 1953–54), Member of the Greek National Theatre's Administrative Council, President of the Administrative Council of the Greek Radio and Television as well as Member of the Consultative Committee of the Greek National Tourist's Organisation on the Athens Festival. In 1960 he was awarded the First State Poetry Prize, in 1965 the Order of the Phoenix and in 1975 he was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa in the Faculty of Philosophy at Thessaloniki University and received the Honorary Citizenship of the Town of Mytilene.
During the years 1948-1952 and 1969-1972 he settled in Paris. There, he audited philology and literature seminars at the Sorbonne and was well received by the pioneers of the world's avant-garde (Reverdy, Breton, Tzara, Ungaretti, Matisse, Picasso, Francoise Gilot, Chagall, Giacometti) as Tériade's most respected friend. Teriade was simultaneously in Paris publishing works with all the renowned artists and philosophers (Kostas Axelos, Jean Paul Sartre, Francoise Gilot, Rene Daumal...) of the time. Elytis and Teriade had formed a strong friendship that solidified in 1939 with the publication of Elytis first book of poetry entitled "Orientations". Both Elytis and Teriade hailed from Lesbos and had a mutual love of the Greek painter Theophilos. Starting from Paris he travelled and subsequently visited Switzerland, England, Italy and Spain. In 1948 he was the representative of Greece at the International Meetings of Geneva, in 1949 at the Founding Congress of the International Art Critics Union in Paris and in 1962 at the Incontro Romano della Cultura in Rome.
In 1961, upon an invitation of the State Department, he traveled through the U.S.A.; and —upon similar invitations— through the Soviet Union in 1963 and Bulgaria in 1965.
Odysseas Elytis had been completing plans to travel overseas when he died in Athens on 18 March 1996, at the age of 84. He was survived by his niece Myrsene and his older brother Evangelos, who received a writ of condolence from the mayor of Athens on behalf of the nation at the funeral at the First National Cemetery.
The Poetry of Elytis
Relief depicting Odysseas Elytis in the Venetian loggia of Heraklion, Crete.
Elytis' poetry has marked, through an active presence of over forty years, a broad spectrum of subject matter and stylistic touch with an emphasis on the expression of that which is rarefied and passionate. He borrowed certain elements from Ancient Greece and Byzantium but devoted himself exclusively to today's Hellenism, of which he attempted—in a certain way based on psychical and sentimental aspects—to reconstruct a modernist mythology for the institutions. His main endeavour was to rid people's conscience from unjustifiable remorses and to complement natural elements through ethical powers, to achieve the highest possible transparency in expression and finally, to succeed in approaching the mystery of light, the metaphysics of the sun of which he was a "worshiper" -idolater by his own definition. A parallel manner concerning technique resulted in introducing the inner architecture, which is evident in a great many poems of his; mainly in the phenomenal landmark work Worthy It Is (Το Άξιον Εστί). This work due to its setting to music by Mikis Theodorakis as an oratorio, is a revered anthem whose verse is sung by all Greeks for all injustice, resistance and for its sheer beauty and musicality of form. Elytis' theoretical and philosophical ideas have been expressed in a series of essays under the title The Open Papers (Ανοιχτά Χαρτιά). Besides creating poetry he applied himself to translating poetry and theatre as well as a series of collage pictures. Translations of his poetry have been published as autonomous books, in anthologies or in periodicals in eleven languages.
Orientations (Προσανατολισμοί, 1939)
Port and venetian fortress in Heraklion, Crete
Sun The First Together With Variations on A Sunbeam (Ηλιος ο πρώτος, παραλλαγές πάνω σε μιαν αχτίδα, 1943)
An Heroic And Funeral Chant For The Lieutenant Lost In Albania (Άσμα ηρωικό και πένθιμο για τον χαμένο ανθυπολοχαγό της Αλβανίας, 1946)
To Axion Esti—It Is Worthy (Το Άξιον Εστί, 1959)
Six Plus One Remorses For The Sky (Έξη και μια τύψεις για τον ουρανό, 1960)
The Light Tree And The Fourteenth Beauty (Το φωτόδεντρο και η δέκατη τέταρτη ομορφιά, 1972)
The Sovereign Sun (Ο ήλιος ο ηλιάτορας, 1971)
The Trills Of Love (Τα Ρω του Έρωτα, 1973)
The Monogram (Το Μονόγραμμα, 1972)
Step-Poems (Τα Ετεροθαλή, 1974)
Signalbook (Σηματολόγιον, 1977)
Maria Nefeli (Μαρία Νεφέλη, 1978)
Three Poems under a Flag of Convenience (Τρία ποιήματα με σημαία ευκαιρίας 1982)
Diary of an Invisible April (Ημερολόγιο ενός αθέατου Απριλίου, 1984)* Krinagoras (Κριναγόρας, 1987)
The Little Mariner (Ο Μικρός Ναυτίλος, 1988)
The Elegies of Oxopetra (Τα Ελεγεία της Οξώπετρας, 1991)
West of Sadness (Δυτικά της λύπης, 1995)
Eros, Eros, Eros: Selected and Last Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1998) (translated by Olga Broumas)
The True Face and Lyrical Bravery of Andreas Kalvos (Η Αληθινή φυσιογνωμία και η λυρική τόλμη του Ανδρέα Κάλβου, 1942)
2x7 e (collection of small essays) (2χ7 ε (συλλογή μικρών δοκιμίων))
(Offering) My Cards To Sight (Ανοιχτά χαρτιά (συλλογή κειμένων), 1973)
The Painter Theophilos (Ο ζωγράφος Θεόφιλος, 1973)
The Magic Of Papadiamantis (Η μαγεία του Παπαδιαμάντη, 1975)
Report to Andreas Empeirikos (Αναφορά στον Ανδρέα Εμπειρίκο, 1977)
Things Public and Private (Τα Δημόσια και τα Ιδιωτικά, 1990)
Private Way (Ιδιωτική Οδός, 1990)
Carte Blanche («Εν λευκώ» (συλλογή κειμένων), 1992)
The Garden with the Illusions (Ο κήπος με τις αυταπάτες, 1995)
Open Papers: Selected Essays, (Copper Canyon Press, 1995) (translated by Olga Broumas and T. Begley)
Second Writing (Δεύτερη γραφή, 1976)
The Apocalypse (by John) (Η αποκάλυψη, 1985)
Mario Vitti: Odysseus Elytis. Literature 1935-1971 (Icaros 1977)
Tasos Lignadis: Elytis' Axion Esti (1972)
Lili Zografos: Elytis - The Sun Drinker (1972); as well as the special issue of the American magazine Books Abroad dedicated to the work of Elytis (Autumn 1975. Norman, Oklahoma, U.S.A.)
Odysseas Elytis: Analogies of Light. Ed. I. Ivask (1981)
A. Decavalles: Maria Nefeli and the Changeful Sameness of Elytis' Variations on a theme (1982)
E. Keeley: Elytis and the Greek Tradition (1983)
Ph. Sherrard: 'Odysseus Elytis and the Discovery of Greece', in Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 1(2), 1983
K. Malkoff: 'Eliot and Elytis: Poet of Time, Poet of Space', in Comparative Literature, 36(3), 1984
A. Decavalles: 'Odysseus Elytis in the 1980s', in World Literature Today, 62(l), 1988
Translations of Elytis' work
Poesie. Procedute dal Canto eroico e funebre per il sottotenente caduto in Albania. Trad. Mario Vitti (Roma. Il Presente. 1952)
21 Poesie. Trad. Vicenzo Rotolo (Palermo. Istituto Siciliano di Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici. 1968)
Poèmes. Trad. Robert Levesque (1945)
Six plus un remords pourle ciel. Trad. F. B. Mache (Fata Morgana. Montpellier 1977)
Korper des Sommers. Übers. Barbara Schlörb (St. Gallen 1960)
Sieben nächtliche Siebenzeiler. Übers. Günter Dietz (Darmstadt 1966)
To Axion Esti - Gepriesen sei. Übers. Güinter Dietz (Hamburg 1969)
The Axion Esti. Tr. E. Keeley and G. Savidis (Pittsburgh 1974 - Greek & English)(repr. London: Anvil Press, 1980 - English only)
The Sovereign Sun: selected poems. Tr. K. Friar (1974; repr. 1990)
Selected poems. Ed. E. Keeley and Ph. Sherrard (1981; repr. 1982, 1991)
Maria Nephele, tr. A. Anagnostopoulos (1981)
What I love: selected poems, tr. O. Broumas (1986) [Greek & English texts]
^ Association of Greek Art Critics, International Association of Art Critics. "AICA-HELLAS History".
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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