"The Forster-Cavafy Letters: Friends at a Slight Angle"

9/2/2009

The Forster– Cavafy Letters: Friends at a Slight Angle, edited by Peter Jeffreys, assistant professor of English at Suffolk University, documents one of the most intriguing and significant literary friendships of the twentieth century.    

The English novelist E.M. Forster and the Greek-Alexandrian poet C.P. Cavafy met when Forster was working for the Red Cross in Alexandria during the First World War. Their subsequent correspondence bears witness to a complex relationship and serves as a fascinating testament to Forster’s relentless determination to promote Cavafy by bringing out an English translation of his work.

The letters also chronicle Cavafy’s calculated refusal to comply fully with Forster’s plans. The story they tell involves a number of major twentieth century literary personalities—Arnold Toynbee, T.S. Eliot, T.E. Lawrence, and Leonard Woolf all participated in Forster’s early translation project.

Forster ultimately succeeded in launching Cavafy’s reputation in the English-speaking world, setting an important precedent for his present global literary fame.

The volume, from the American University in Cairo Press, includes all extant letters, the earliest Cavafy translations by George Valassopoulos (incorporating Cavafy’s own authorial emendations), poems by E.M. Forster, archival photographs, and related letters.
 
Jeffreys is the author of Eastern Questions: Hellenism and Orientalism in the Writings of E.M. Forster and C.P. Cavafy and the translator of Cavafy’s Selected Prose Writings.

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