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Reviews 371 George Thaniel, Seferis and Friends. Some of George Seferis' Friends of the EnglishSpeaking World. Edited by Edward Phinney. Stratford, Ontario: The Mercury Press. 1994. Pp. 143. $14.95. The decision to publish George Thaniel's postiiumous book was certainly a way of paying homage to a scholar who recognized the need for continued research into Seferian archival material. Originally intended as a monograph about Seferis and his "interactions" with prominent English and American scholars, intellectuals, and writers, the manuscript has been published virtually intact in its rough draft form. Included is already published material researched at the Gennadeios Library in Adiens from 1985 to 1986 and in Maro Seferis's personal archive, on Seferis's connections to figures such as T. S. Eliot, Lawrence Durrell, and Henry Miller. Using what might be described as a biographical approach, the book expands upon this base to illuminate our understanding of Seferis's public and private personas. Chapter 1 prints twenty letters written to Seferis during the period 19471970 , and includes a brief introduction. The correspondents include Romilly Jenkins, Stephen Spender, Steven Runciman, Rex Warner, A. R Bury, E. M. Forster, Robert Graves, and Eugene McCardiy. Chapter 2, drawing on autobiographical material found in the poet's diaries, reconstructs Seferis's sojourns in England from the 1930s to the 1950s as a representative of the Greek government , and discusses his formative years as a poet and especially his apparent debt to Eliot. Chapters 3 and 4, integrating material from published travelogues and archival sources, focus separately on Durrell and Miller, adding substance to each audior's association with Seferis and dispelling the mythological nature of previous accounts. Providing an assessment of this "work in progress" places die present reviewer in an uneasy position owing to a number of stylistic flaws and omissions in the text, much of which may not have been intended for publication. The fragmentary condition of the first two chapters, for example, prevents a thorough evaluation. They present a mere catalogue of Seferis's contacts with prominent Englishmen and Americans, but offer no organizing principle upon which the material is based. Moreover, the archival sources are not consistendy cited; nor are die secondary sources adequately utilized, except for those that comprise the "pioneering" wave. More recent sources employing a theoretical approach are conspicuously absent. Beyond these problems, there are more serious ones deriving from Thaniel's treatment of Seferis as a public and private figure. He offers no new insight into the problem of Seferis's political versus literary self, a question that has preoccupied scholars for decades. Instead of reverting to a conventional psychoanalytic approach, he employs extraneous evidence to describe the poet's character. For example, to dispel the myth of Seferis's melancholic disposition, he notes how Steven Runciman "sets the record straight" about Seferis "the man": He "was not, in reality, the gloomy person that some people (inferring from his poems) imagine. Seferis had a lively mind and could share a good joke with a friend" (11). 372 Reviews Most problematic is Thaniel's criticism of Seferis's early poetry, especially his insistence that die young poet succumbed to the "influence" of Eliot. He suggests that diis poetry suggests "the ways in which Eliot's themes were skillfully woven into the fabric of Seferis's art. The series of poems Notes for a 'Week'... are in terms of articulation and imagery Eliotic, in contrast to the Stratis the Mariner poems where no Eliotic influence is apparent" (62). Thaniel's approach runs contrary to recent scholarship—for example that of Tziovas, Calotychos, and Leontis—which, rather than link Seferis to the poetics of the high modernists, places him in the context of autochthonous cultural politics. Indeed, Seferis himself refuted the question of influence as early as 1933. "Last year," he wrote in his diary, "I thought that [Eliot] was the first poet whom I have influenced! I could not explain this similarity in our inclinations and quests in any other way" (quoted by Thaniel, p. 60). Thaniel's major contribution is no doubt his research into the Seferis archive. The letters to Seferis dispersed throughout his book reveal gems included in this extensive correspondence, most...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 371-373
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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