Cavafy’s Life 1912–1933

After 1912: Cavafy cuts his personal expenses and devotes himself to achieving lasting fame. His daily life consists of work, writing, and receiving guests by candlelight in his apartment.

1913–19: Cavafy meets people who will do much to promote his work: British author E. M. Forster, Greek critic Timos Malamos, French translator of Callimachus Robin Furness, Greek authors Nikos Kazantzakis and Penelope Delta and her brother, business magnate Antony Benaki, and Aleko Sengopoulos, Cavafy’s future heir and executor of his estate. In 1918 Aleko Sengopoulos presents a lecture on Cavafy (reportedly written by Cavafy) before an educated elite public. During this time Cavafy publishes many of his erotic poems: “Very Seldom,” “As Much as You Can,” “I Went,” “Chandelier,” “Long Ago,” “When They Come Alive,” “In the Street,” “At the Café Door,” “He Swears,” “One Night,” “I’ve Looked So Much,” “Days of 1903,” “Body Remember,” “Afternoon Sun,” and others.

1919: E. M. Forster publishes an article about Cavafy in London, the first presentation of Cavafy’s work outside the Greek world.

1920: Death of Cavafy’s brother Paul, who had been living destitute in France after a financial and personal crisis.

1922: Cavafy joyfully retires from the Ministry of Public Works, declaring, “At last I am freed from the despised thing!” Forster publishes his book, Alexandria: A History and Guide, dedicated to Cavafy. Cavafy devotes himself full time to writing poetry. He publishes several of his poems with historical settings.

Death of Cavafy’s brother John, Cavafy’s first translator.

1924: Cavafy is attacked publicly as a “second Oscar Wilde” but is defended by many admirers.

1926: Cavafy receives Order of the Phoenix from the Greek State.

1928: Forster revisits Cavafy. Rika Sengopoulou interviews him.

1932: Cavafy is diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and transferred to Athens, where he undergoes a tracheotomy. No longer able to speak, he communicates with short handwritten notes. He insists on returning to Alexandria: “Mohammed Aly Square is my aunt, Rue Cherif Pacha is my first cousin and the rue de Ramleh my second. How can I leave them?”

April 29, 1933: Cavafy dies on his birthday at the Greek Hospital in Alexandria and is buried the same day in the family tomb.

Notes, “Not for Publication but may remain here,” (ms.) written in Greek (above) and in English (right) in Cavafy’s hand, two of several similar notes Cavafy attached to manuscripts he wanted to keep hidden. Cavafy Archive, S.N.H.
Note from deathbed written in Greek in Cavafy’s hand. E.L.I.A.
Cavafy’s return address on Lepsius Street, written in his hand. E.L.I.A.