Greek Nobel Prize Winners / αγγλικά / Λογοτεχνία

George Seferis (Smyrna 1900 – Athens 1971) and Odysseus Elytis (Herakleion, Crete 1911 – Athens 1996) are poets belonging to the generation of the 1930s. Among other prizes, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1963 and 1979 respectively. Their work has been translated into nearly every European language and has circulated all over the world.  In addition to poetry, they also published essays, reviews, studies and translations.

Seferis, who studied and spent the greatest part of his life abroad, came into early contact with European thinking and was deeply influenced by it. Nevertheless, he never estranged himself from the political, social or intellectual trends of Greek life. He was a pioneer in Greek poetry, not only with respect to his subject matter but also with respect to modes of expression and his use of language. Distanced from standard prototypes, he combined contemporary literary trends with a personal way of expression. He adopted the abolition or, at least, the breach of rhythm and rhyme, imperfect punctuation, ambiguity of meaning and surprising metaphors and similes. His poetry was based on simple, everyday language, because he believed that “ a poet has no way to act other than the language spoken by those around him”. (Dokimes 2, p. 163).

Elytis, influenced by surrealism and contemporary artistic trends, with studies and extensive activity in Greece and abroad, never abandonned or denied his Greek identity, which he experienced variously, from his memories of the Aegean to the tragedies of the modern Greek nation (World War II, German occupation, civil war). He created his own personal poetic idiom and was considered one of the reformers of Greek poetry, along with Seferis, Ritsos, Engonopoulos, Embeirikos etc. His poetry maintained a constant dialogue with experience, and embodied his tension and anguish as an artist and as a Greek. He differs from Seferis in the conception and use of poetic language and, in contrast to him, he expresses himself “in a language set apart from colloquial language,” for the sake of a text that is “virginal and distanced from the everyday use of words”.