The bombing of Alexandria by the British in 1882 forced C. P. Cavafy and his family into temporary exile. Traumatic for the young poet, this displacement produced a set of epistolary exchanges between friends and family that sheds much light on his Western orientation, connecting him back to the metropolitan cities—London and Liverpool—where he had previously resided. Cavafy remained firmly oriented toward the West, and his Anglophilic cosmopolitanism is inextricably linked to commerce and culture as they intersect with his family history. The museum ethos that later defines his poetry and his love for the art object is rooted in the cultural world of the Anglo-Greeks from which he found himself exiled—one of many exiles he would experience. Retrieving this lost world and memorializing the pleasure-loving days of his young friends heavily informs Cavafy's poetry, which is saturated with memory, death, and nostalgia.
Cavafy's Levant: Commerce, Culture, and Mimicry in the Early Life of the Poet
Peter Jeffreys is associate professor of English at Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts. He has written and edited a number of books on Cavafy: Eastern Questions: Hellenism and Orientalism in the Writings of E. M. Forster and C. P. Cavafy (2005); The Forster-Cavafy Letters: Friends at a Slight Angle (2009); and Reframing Decadence: C.P. Cavafy's Imaginary Portraits (2015).
Peter Jeffreys; Cavafy's Levant: Commerce, Culture, and Mimicry in the Early Life of the Poet. boundary 2 1 May 2021; 48 (2): 7–39. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8936670
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