C.P. Cavafy was born and died in Alexandria (1863-1933). His contemporaries, heirs of the Greek humanism in the version that the Western world inherited from Rome, were interested in Classical Greece (480-338 B.C.) and every now and then also checked Ancient Greece (700-480 B.C.), but Cavafy nevertheless was interested in the Hellenistic Greece (324 B.C. - 395 A.D.), which begins after the death of Alexander the Great, and which after being conquered in 146 B.C., belonged to the Romans. The history of the Hellenic East -whose geography includes Egypt, Syria, Israel, Mesopotamia, Persia and Minor Asia, and whose main dynasties were the Ptolemaic and the Seleucia-, as it is told by its historians and chroniclers is the source of his poems devoted to antiquity. (...) Byzantium was another of his core interests. Like the Alexandria of his birth, this Hellenistic and Byzantine world is, above all, racially and culturally promiscuous.
The most significant external characteristic of Cavafy's poetry is its briefness, as his poetical works are limited to 154 poems (...) he is a poet, maybe not of old age, as he would call it himself, but definitely a poet of maturity (...). Along his last eleven years of life he only considered worth of publishing fifty one poems.
Cavafy, who never got to have electric light, was a modern man, and even a vanguardist, as Marinetti himself -also born in Alexandria, by the way- would define him in a meeting this vanguardist "tsunami" would have with the splendid author of the poem The God Abandons Antony, a poem lively praised by Luis Cernuda.
Cavafy was homosexual, and this condition in his time implied many problems with society. Classifying Cavafy's poetry -like Catulo's, Baudelaire's or Gil de Biedma's- as erotic is extremely relevant because Eros, with the urges for sex and the complexity of feelings, is present quantitatively and qualitatively in a good part of his work. His late poems are in a way the history of the gradual revelation of his nature.
(Fragments if the prologue by Ramón Irigoyen to Poemas [Poems] by C.P. Cavafy, translated and annotated by Ramón Irigoyen, Círculo de Lectores, 1999)
In this conference we will also address the reception of Cavafy in Spain, with special attention to the translations of the poet that have been made.