CAVAFY, Constantine P.  [1863 - 1933]

Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis, usually known in English as Constantine P Cavafy, was a major figure of modern Greek literature, considered by many to be the most distinguished Greek poet of the 20th century. Born in Alexandria on 29th April 1863 he spent most of his life in the city, dying there on his 70th birthday, 29th April 1933. However, he spent a number of his formative early years in Liverpool.

His father, Peter John Cavafy, was prosperous merchant with business interests in Constantinople, London, Manchester and Liverpool. From about 1852 to 1854 he and his wife, Charicleia Georgaki (née Photiades) lived at 33 Bedford Street South L7 before returning to Alexandria. Peter Cavafy died young in 1870 and his widow decided that their financial situation required the family to relocate to England. They moved between London and Liverpool, their homes in Liverpool being 12 Balmoral Road L6 (c.1873-74) and 45 Huskisson Street L8 just before they returned to Alexandria in September 1877.

Constantine Cavafy settled permanently in Alexandria in 1885, reacquiring his Greek citizenship and abandoning the British nationality which his father had acquired in the 1840s.His early jobs included news correspondent, work at the stock exchange and then as a clerk in the British-run Ministry of Public Works, a post he held for some thirty years, rising to high rank in the department. He eventually quit the post in 1922 to concentrate on his poetry.

Cavafy was known and admired by many leading literary figures including E M Forster and T S Eliot. Whilst his work is largely unknown to most British audiences, his mark on popular culture is noticeably wide. The singer Donovan featured one of Cavafy’s poems in his 1970 film There Is An Ocean and Leonard Cohen transformed his poem The God Abandons Antony into Alexandra Leaving, a song of lost love. Cavafy also appears as a character in Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. You can find a reading of his poem Ithaka by Sean Connery on YouTube.

12 Balmoral Road L6

Cavafy's home c.1873-74

45 Huskisson Street L8

The Cavafy family home just prior to their return to Alexandria in 1877


I became aware of Cavafy via S.B.Williams' book The Greek Community of Liverpool: A History 1822-2022  [World Of Creative Dreams 2023].The Wikipedia entry gives quite a thorough account of Cavafy's life and work. Penguin have published a selection of his poetry.