In contradistinction to Anglophone criticism's airbrushing of all things Egyptian/Arab from the iconic image of C. P. Cavafy, this essay dwells on the poet as an Egyptiote. An Egyptiote orientation, it is argued, variously informs given poems and prose texts in his later years. Probing Cavafy's knowledge of Arabic, the essay demonstrates his affinities and solidarities with Egyptians under colonial duress as witnessed in the choice of subject matter and in the intertextual Greek-Egyptian folkloric resonances in his poem “27 June 1906, 2 P.M.” Analyzing how the poem's tropes and temporality riposte to those in extraliterary discourses about the colonial incident it depicts, the essay reads “27 June 1906, 2 P.M.” in relation to other Cavafy poems that reveal an Egyptiote “transculturated” poetics. A set of prose texts—letters, essays, interviews—by Cavafy, it is demonstrated, vest Egyptiote literati with an intercultural literary agency of acquainting the Greek public with the outlines of Egyptian Arabophone literature and the Arabophone Egyptian literati with something of their own Greek language production.
C. P. Cavafy as an Egyptiote
Hala Halim is associate professor of comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies at New York University. Her book Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism: An Archive received an Honorable Mention for the Harry Levin Prize, sponsored by the American Comparative Literature Association. Clamor of the Lake, Halim's translation of a novel by Mohamed El-Bisatie, won an Egyptian State Incentive Award.
Hala Halim; C. P. Cavafy as an Egyptiote. boundary 2 1 May 2021; 48 (2): 123–160. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8936698
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