Odysseas Elytis was born on November 2, 1911, in Heraklion, Crete and died on March 18, 1996, in Athens.
He is regarded as a major exponent of romantic modernism in Greece and the world. In 1979 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Elytis’ real name was Alepoudelis, an old industrial family from Lesbos. His family later moved to Athens, where the poet graduated from high school and later attended courses as an auditor at the Law School at the University of Athens.
Elytis published his first poem in 1935 in the journal New Letters (Νέα Γράμματα) at the prompting of George Seferis. His entry with a distinctively earthy and original form assisted to inaugurate a new era in Greek poetry and its subsequent reform after the Second World War.
From 1969 to 1972, during the Greek military junta of 1967-1974, Elytis exiled himself to Paris. He was romantically linked to the lyricist and musicologist Mariannina Kriezi, who subsequently produced and hosted the legendary children’s radio broadcast “Here Lilliput Land”. Elytis was intensely private and vehemently solitary in pursuing his ideals of poetic truth and experience.
“Όμορφη και παράξενη πατρίδα ω σαν αυτή που μου ‘λαχε δεν είδα.”
“I’ve never seen a homeland more strange and beautiful.”
Beautiful and Strange Homeland – Odysseas Elytis
Της δικαοσύνης ήλιε νοητέ
Notional sun of justice
Notional sun of justice that shines through
and you aggrandizing myrtle too
please oh please, I’m begging you
please pay heed, to my land anew!
It has eagle-shaped mountains reaching high
on volcanoes, terraced vineyards lie
and the whitest houses by
a blue sea that meets the blue sky!
Holding thunder into my embittered hands
I return them way back in time’s sands
I’m calling my old good friends
with cruel threats and bloodline commands
The poetry of Oddyseas Elytis
Elytis’ poetry has marked, through an active presence of over forty years, a broad spectrum of subject matter and stylistic touch with an emphasis on the expression of that which is rarefied and passionate. He borrowed certain elements from Ancient Greece and Byzantium but devoted himself exclusively to today’s Hellenism, of which he attempted – in a certain way based on psychical and sentimental aspects – to reconstruct a modernist mythology for the institutions. His main endeavour was to rid people’s conscience from unjustifiable remorses and to complement natural elements through ethical powers, to achieve the highest possible transparency in expression and finally, to succeed in approaching the mystery of light, the metaphysics of the sun of which he was a “worshiper” – idolater by his own definition.
A parallel manner concerning technique resulted in introducing the inner architecture, which is evident in a great many poems of his; mainly in the phenomenal landmark work To Axion Esti. This work due to its setting to music by Mikis Theodorakis as an oratorio is a revered anthem whose verse is sung by all Greeks for all injustice, resistance and for its sheer beauty and musicality of form.
Elytis’ theoretical and philosophical ideas have been expressed in a series of essays under the title The Open Papers. Besides creating poetry he applied himself to translating poetry and theatre as well as a series of collage pictures. Translations of his poetry have been published as autonomous books, in anthologies or in periodicals in eleven languages.
Read more about Odysseas Elytis here: Odysseas Elytis – Wikipedia.org