Greek poet & diplomat
Nobel Prize Literature winner
Born in the town of Vourla, near Smyrni in Ionia, he was a diplomat and poet, one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963.
He was interested in writing and poetry at a young age, but by 1914 at the outbreak of WW1, his family fled their home and moved to Athens, where Seferis completed his schooling.
Following this, he studied Law in Paris graduating in 1924, it was while there that he learned of the destruction of his family’s home, the burning of Smyrni and the Asia Minor Catastrophe. He would not visit there again until the 1950s.
His breakthrough as a poet occurred in 1931, with the publishing of “Στροφή”, which contained poems which he had mostly written in the 1920s.
Most of Seferis’ poems dealt with themes connected with Greek culture inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world, he is also credited with ushering in a new era of modernism in Greek literature.
Seferis also served a distinguished diplomatic career, particularly in the ministry of foreign affairs. He held posts in Albania, Turkey, was appointed minister to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and in the UK – where he served 5 years as Greece’s Ambassador to the UK.
During his diplomatic career he had a soft spot for Cyprus, after being enchanted with the island after visiting there. Seferis made use of his position in the diplomatic service to strive towards a resolution of the Cyprus issue, investing a great deal of personal effort and emotion. This was one of the few areas in his life in which he allowed the personal and the political to mix.