Scholars' Association News
Issue 25
February 2013


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The Cavafy Archive, newly acquired by the Onassis Foundation

An invaluable historical and literary treasure, the Cavafy Archive, is the latest acquisition to come under the protective umbrella of the Onassis Foundation. It is a move of national importance in these current difficult times, on the threshold of 2013, which has been declared Constantine Cavafy Year as it marks 150 years since the birth and the 80 years since the death of the great Alexandrian poet.

The Foundation aims for the Archive to become a benchmark, openly accessible to the general public, and in addition for it to highlight the international character of Cavafy’s poetry and personality. It also seeks to attract younger generations with a modern approach to Cavafy’s work and by exploiting new media.

The Cavafy Archive is one of a kind in Greek letters, as the poet himself took care to organize his priceless documents and personal items in a unique way, bearing in mind future researchers of his work. More specifically, the Archive acquired by the Foundation includes: poems (originals, translations, comments on poems, etc.), literary texts in prose, private texts (correspondence, diaries, public and social life, etc.), the Archive of Alexandrian Art (the periodical published by the poet), as well as the Segopoulos Archive (archival remnants relating to Cavafy from his heir Alekos Segopoulos and his wife, Rika Segopoulou, the first curator of the archive).

The oldest specimen in the collection is a letter from George Cavafy, the poet’s uncle, dating from 1850, in which he sends Constantine’s father to Alexandria to run the family business there.

The poet’s extensive archive, the largest closed set of archival documents on his life and work, has passed into the hands of the Onassis Foundation. The archive that Cavafy himself organized is a work of precision and a primary means of his self-determination. The Cavafy Archive today includes printed and digitalized material, as well as websites.

The Cavafy Archive, as pioneering in letters as he himself, was put in order by the poet. In 1963, twenty years after the death of C. P. Cavafy, the poet’s heir, Alekos Segopoulos, entrusted the editing and publication of the entire Cavafy Archive to Georgios P. Savvides.

In 1968 G. P. Savvides edited in an exemplary manner the edition of "The Unpublished Poems" from the Cavafy Archive, and then gave many scholars the opportunity to publish previously unpublished material, culminating in the issue of C. P. Cavafy’s "The Unfinished Poems" by Renata Lavagnini in 1994. G. P. Savvides’ heir, Manolis Savvides, continued this practice which resulted in the publication of the first volume of C. P. Cavafy’s "Prose poems" by Michalis Pieris and the “C. P. Cavafy Library" by Michaila Karabini-Iatrou in 2003.

G. P. Savvides and Manolis Savvides not only preserved the unity of the Cavafy Archive they inherited, but largely restored it retrieving documents and other material that had been removed, and endowing it with items like the poet’s original desk, with printed and electronic editions, websites, etc. Thus the Cavafy Archive has been given to us as full and complete as ever.

The Onassis Foundation’s exploitation of the Cavafy Archive
The aim of the Onassis Foundation is to make the Archive a reference point for all interested. By investing in its digital development, it aims at accessibility for all and not only for the academic community. The Onassis Foundation also intends to focus on the international dimension of C. P. Cavafy’s work.

The Onassis Cultural Centre is to house a permanent exhibition of the Alexandrian poet’s personal items and documents. The exhibits will be rotated and the study of the way they are to be presented will follow modern museum practices and approaches.

The Centre, loyal as ever to its educational mission, is to exploit the Cavafy Archive to an even further extent by designing programmes for audiences of all ages. In 2013, our great poet’s anniversary year, the Centre is to hold a series of events, in the context of its greater mission as ever, honouring his work and highlighting his international philosophical and poetic range, as well as his relationship with our times.

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