Two different faces of Cavafy in English: A corpus-assisted approach to translational stylistics


Κωνσταντίνος Καβάφης (1863 – 1933)
α. όλα β. έργα γ. μελέτες / άρθρα δ. ξενόγλωσσα


καβαφηςjpgTwo different faces of Cavafy in English:
A corpus-assisted approach to translational stylistics
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A translator is seen to leave a personal mark on the text through their stylistic choices and the patterns formed by
these choices. This article comprises a case study that uses a specialized comparative corpus containing
translations of C.P. Cavafy’s canon in order to explore the distinctive stylistic features of Rae Dalven and of
Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard (working in collaboration), in both quantitative and qualitative terms.
Exploring the different approaches to Cavafy’s poetry on the stylistic level reveals the stylistic fragmentation of
the poet after crossing over into a dominant language and literary market.
Overall word frequencies for each translation are examined, the stylistic features that are prominent in
each case are identified, and their significance is considered. Special attention is also paid to the way a stylistic
feature belonging to the ‘universal aspects of literature’ is treated by each translator. By foregrounding the
translators and their distinct choices, the “homogenization” effects that often characterize translation into a major
language are arrested. Instead, the focus falls on the factors that shape each translator’s use of language and their

Nowadays, at the second decade of the 21st century and at a time when the flourish in interest
in modern Greece along with its cultural and literary output has been largely replaced by
indifference or even skepticism, the figure of the Alexandrian poet C.P. Cavafy remains aloof
of these developments. Indeed, if anything, the Anglophone world’s interest in Cavafy is
reinforced through new translations and new readings (see below). Cavafy (1863-1933) was
dead before the rise in interest in modern Greek literature in the late 20th century, and even
before his own work had attained any widespread recognition outside of Greece. And yet, he
constitutes one of the finest examples of a poet who worked in a language and a literature of
lesser diffusion, as is modern Greek, and achieved major status in terms of impact, influence
and recognition by peers and scholars alike. In terms of the translation of his work into
English, he is the only modern Greek writer who has had their entire oeuvre translated by
more than two different translators.