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Literature And Poetry

Coming Soon.
 
 

Books I recently read

Fiction

 

Non-Fiction

Zimbardo and Boyd (2008)

Zimbardo, P. G., and Boyd, J. (2008). The Time Paradox : The New Psychology of Time. Sydney: Rider, pp. viii, 354 p.
This  book makes a very compelling point on the influence of time in our lives and our trajectories in life.
 

My favourite Poems

 

Ithaca (C. Cavafy, 1911) - Original: Ιθάκη

This poem is particularly appealing to me, as my personal life journey has been carved on the steps of Odysseus, another citizen of the world that lived few thousand years ago. The poem has acquired a special meaning, especially in Cavafy's deeply symbolic and spiritual approach to poetry. For me, and certainly for a lot of the readers of Cavafy's poetry, Ithaca is not simply a destination in space and time. It is the profound collapse of space and time into it's bare essence: our everlasting spiritual journey to this life, to this world. Ithaca is the lost key that opens two worlds; the one of our sensory and cognitive interactive experiences with the external world and realities that surround us, and yet at the same time, the internal spiritual and esoteric journey to find ourselves, to seek redemption, to extract the essence and meaning of our lives.

Cavafis is contrasting the ephemeral and fatalistic elements of our lives (the fact that there always going to be things that we pass by in our lives, harbors we can visit, experiences we can explore) with their deeper, inner semiotic significance (the same elements, yet serving a more profound and spiritual role, that of guiding elements of our journey in life). Ithaca makes the point that we ought to seek the time-invariance, the everlasting values on everything we do or feel in our lives, so that when we will come to the point to look back at our life's path, we won't simply see a collection of experiences or emotional state, but the pure, spiritual essence of the journey itself.

I love the original, Greek opening of the poem (the first three verses) that goes like this:

"Σαν βγείς στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,
να εύχεσαι νά 'ναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
γεμμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμμάτος γνώση. (...)"

Here's the full text of Ithaca (translated from the original Greek text of 1911): 

As you set out for Ithaca
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - don't be afraid of them:
you' ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon - you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
 
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind -
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
 
Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
 
Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithaca's mean.
 
 

The ballad of the water of the sea (Federico Garcia Lorca, 1919) - Original: La balada del aqua del mar

For me, Lorca's poetry beyond being extremely appealing to my deeply rooted Mediterranean emotional state of mind, it also stirs up beautiful and exciting memories of the ocean. My relation with the ocean is and always have been deeply poetic and erotic by nature (part of it is my Greek and Mediterranean temperament). Since I was a child, every time I faced the vastness of the ocean, its color and extremely characteristic smell, I have been fascinated. This intriguing emotional, spiritual and everlasting relationship with the ocean is rooted and embedded in my inner self, is part of who I am and how I perceive myself. In addition, for me the ocean is not the great divider, but exactly the opposite: the divine connector, bringing together any part of the world with any other. When I was a teenager, I used to sit in the water front, staring at the ocean, and try to imagine all these exotic lands that were somewhere in the other side of the blue horizon of the sea. I knew that between where I was and where these distant lands were, there was nothing but an ocean connecting them. Today, I often do the same, being thousand of miles away from where I grew up. I always know when i am standing in front of the ocean that somewhere back there, beyond the horizon there is my familiar places of my childhood, the history of my ancestors and a part of my heart left behind.

I believed for years that everyone could feel this emotional and spiritual connection with the ocean. It is natural for me to detect the ocean before I even see it. It is the smell and the breeze that gives it apart and initiate the emergence of all these beautiful feelings. Yet, I discovered that this is not the case with people that have not grew up near an ocean. My wife always found difficult to understand my attitudes toward the ocean and the emotional state associated with the ocean. It took me years to convey to people close to me my true spiritual and mental connection with the sea.

Lorca's poem is an ode to the ocean. An extremely affectionate and lyrical painting of the sea. It has something profoundly Mediterranean and extremely familiar in it. And it spreads that bitter tastefulness of the ocean as both a cathartic medium for engulfing our existence, but also as the nemesis we will always try but we will never manage to avoid in our lives. Lastly, I also find something strangely sweet and smooth on the Spanish pronunciation of the poem.

 The English translation of the poem (from Google Books - The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca):
The sea
smiles from far off.
Teeth of foam,
lips of sky.
 
What do you sell, oh, turbid maid,
with your breasts to the wind?
 
I sell, sir, the water
of the seas.
 
What do you carry, oh, black youth,
mixed with your blood?
 
I carry, sir, the water
of the seas.
 
These salt tears,
Mother, from where do they come?
 
I weep, sir, the water
of the seas.
 
Heart; and this grave
bitterness, where was it born?
 
Very bitter is the water
of the seas!
 
The sea
smiles from far off.
Teeth of foam,
lips of sky.
 
The original text in Spanish: 
El mar
sonríe a lo lejos.
Dientes de espuma,
labios de cielo.
 
¿Qué vendes, oh joven turbia
con los senos al aire?
 
Vendo, señor, el agua
de los mares.
 
¿Qué llevas, oh negro joven,
mezclado con tu sangre?
 
Llevo, señor, el agua
de los mares.
 
Esas lágrimas salobres
¿de dónde vienen, madre?
 
Lloro, señor, el agua
de los mares.
 
Corazón, y esta amargura
seria, ¿de dónde nace?
seria, ¿de dónde nace?
 
¡Amarga mucho el agua
de los mares!
 
El mar
sonríe a lo lejos.
Dientes de espuma,
labios de cielo.
 
 
See a YouTube version of the poem with music performed by collaboration by Onar (a greek modern group) and Madredeus (a Portugese traditional folk group - performance by the singer Teresa Salgueiro). The video clip is bilingual. The first half is the Greek version of Lorca's poem (Onar) whilst the second half the Spanish version of the Lorca's poem (Madredeus).
 
 
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