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This review is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

APPLYING THE PRESSURE Roderick Beaton, George Seferis, Bristol Classical Press (Modern Greek Writers Series) £6.95 pb

So distinct is the impression made by the poems of George Seferis that, even for those with no access to modern Greek, it seems possible to claim a kind of intimacy with him different only in degree from that which obtains in the cases of Eliot and Pound - with both of whom Seferis enjoyed the reciprocities of friendship. Yet for a figure who (as Philip Sherrard has written) 'combines the characteristics of a man of our time living in our world with those of an archetypal man living a universal human destiny', Seferis remains oddly recessed; there are fragmentary glimpses, but no stable image. Only the 1945-51 portion of his extensive diary-notebook has been translated, and only a scatter of essays. Whilst memoirs abound - and from such diversely distinguished sources as Steven Runciman and Henry Miller - no full-scale biography has emerged: a curious outcome, given that even so 'static' a life as Cavafy's has been defined and documented. To come at all close to Seferis the man from outside the ambit of his own and his fellow-writers' words is to confront the intrinsically enigmatic evidence of a few photographs, and to ponder the inevitably partial revelations - though much more revealing than one might have expected - of Seferis's sister Ioanna Tsatsos in a book (noted in P·N·R 34) extremely difficult to acquire. No wonder Yves Bonnefoy, in an essay introducing some French translations published in 1963 (the year of Seferis's Nobel prize), emphasizes the shadows ...


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