FOR HER BOOK (TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATIVE ESSAY OF EFI ATHANASSIOU
FOR THE ″FOUR QUARTETS″ OF T.S. ELIOT: FOUR QUARTETS, "A
MESSAGE FOR THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY")
(Translation from the Greek)
and translation to our language of the poetic composition of T.S. ELIOT
"Four Quartets" effected by the poetess Efi Athanassiou.
The essay of Efi Athanassiou, which is included in the same volume and
consists a responsible evaluation of this poem of T.S. Eliot.
The analyses which have been made on the poem, are exhaustive and
sometimes advance verse by verse.
Finally, the message which this poem of Eliot includes is pointed out
and its further extensions are emphasized.
feat has the new literary woman Efi Athanassiou shouldered attempting
a ″submergence in depth″ in the most important perhaps work of a great
poet of our century:″ The Four Quartets" of T.S. Eliot, a work, which as
she says too, has been misapprehended in his country from his speaking
the same language students.
she writes in her essay- has remained for many, a hermetic work, because
the key, that was needed for an internal and based on the essence of the
work interpretation was missing. This interpretation is attempted here,
with the decision not one more intellectual work to be added, to those
already existing on the subject, but with the greatest simplicity, that
is litotes of means, to explain, if possible, every idea that is
expressed in the Quartets and composes the, outmost importance, for
humanity, message of the poet, which is beyond limitations of time and
sense, no aesthetic analysis is attempted, but the weight is posed on a,
as much as possible, exact translation and interpretation of the work.
contemporary poetic prose, with its free verse, contributes to a similar
translation of the work, without a special attention to the metre, in
order to preserve the exactitude of the meaning. The approach to the
poetry of Eliot and its deeper meaning, is effected by Efi Athanassiou,
verse by verse, word to word. I don't know how many of those who have
been occupied with the hard to solve problem which is called poetry of
Eliot, agree with the conclusions of his Greek translator- partly or in
general. What, I , however can say is that the translation and analysis
is an outcome of great love, knowledge, critical sense, tireless study,
hard work and trust to the great value of the "Four Quartets", which she
considers the "culmination of the evolution in Western poetry and most
important poem of all time"
(NEA, NEWSPAPER 31.3.79)
Eliot is one
of the greatest contemporary poets, theatre writers and essaysts of
England. In 1948 he has been honored with the Nobel prize.
Kanellopoulos calls him "excellent poet of our century" (History of the
European Spirit). And this excellence of his poetry renders him
characteristically his "Four Quartets" which were published in 1943.With
the title "The most important poem of all time" as a message to the
twentieth century, the poem is now given in Greek translation by Efi
Athanassiou, together with an interpretative essay.
Quartets" are, as the translator mentions, in the brief introduction for
Eliot, "a message of mystic experience, where the concurrence of form
and essence, give a work of great power and beauty and have the sense of
the historical past and of the influence of its intellectual experience
to the present and is an evolutionary march to the Transcendence which
is culminated in Union with the Absolute".
The voluminous indeed labour of
the writer, which should unreservedly be praised. Her work is utmostly
conscious. The whole concept of the essay shows impetus, imagination,
vitality, seriousness, flexibility and mainly profundity of syllogisms,
intellectual vigour, transcendental method, tracing interpretation,
maturity and experience. The way she works is accurate and convincing.
N. CHATZIKYRIAKOS - GHIKAS
(Abstract from his recommendation
for the Ourani Award of Academy of Athens)
Efi Athanassiou poetess and
painter, lives in silence and pain. Elements of creator and researcher
imperishable. Contemplative essayst in the "Four Quartets" of Eliot,
which with memorable translating ability renders in a restructuring
interpretation of the poet of the "Waste Land", shedding light to the
labyrinthine alcoves of a work of the most important.
The "Four Quartets" emerge indeed
like the most essential poem of Eliot through the transcendental
approachings of a high spirit that dominates in the 20th
century. A century of confusion of ideas, decay of values, conventional
external life, stripped of ideals.
Crossing the landscapes that
Eliot leads us, through the luminescences and shadows of symbolistic
semantics, Efi Athanassiou enters to the rationality of its allegory
with decisive handlings, reaching in depth the essence of a bitter and
hard march, within the pitiless space of the human hypostasis,
contending she as well with the Exercise and the Knowledge the prize of
a "glory", which striding its earthy vanity, endangers in the
consciousness of the Void, an exit to the Absolute.
She attains so a purity and
through its blaze the liberty to pass from zero to the starting point,
from where the new starting of the human being is not, perhaps, without
hope and the soul fearful still, but redempted exits from her deaths
through new resurrections. Even if;
future without future before dawn
when time stops and time never ends"
A positive contribution the essay
of Efi Athanassiou in terrains, where the necessary elucidating surveys
for the understanding of a tragic testimony, of one of the coryphaeus of
I read and read again your book
the most important poem of all centuries T.S. Eliot "Four Quartets" and
I write to you these few words to express my admiration.
This book of yours is a product
of love and toil; but above all, it is a glow of a high culture and
great poetic sensitivity. I think that you have managed to penetrate to
the depth of the soul of the great poet and bring to light the high
symbols of his poetic inspirations. Being evidently related to the
constitution of the spirit of Eliot, you have managed to decode and make
accessible to the reader the plexus of his ideas and the nuances of his
I think - without flattering
you - that you have achieved a real feat.
BASIL. I. LAZANAS
Before we comment the excellent
translation and essay work of the poetess Efi Athanassiou , for the Four
Quartets of Eliot, we shall express two basic aspects. First that the
New Greek literature has been and continues to be a type of "beautiful
mulatto". A mixture of age-old currents and of various European
influences. What best has given us was born from periodical and sudden
thrusts it has accepted ( but also seeked, perhaps unconsciously)
looking admiredly at the great European models. Our literature cannot be
understood as something outside of the general European education and
culture in order to give much to the interior, it gets more from abroad.
Those that have an historical
surveyance of our literature from Solomos up to the present, should know
when these stationlike thrusts have been marked which caused renewals
and fertilized talents.
Solomos and Kalvos cannot be
understood without the great Italian, English and German poets of their
time, without the idealism of the European liberalism, Palamas cannot be
understood without Victor Hugo and Souly Prudom, the romanticism, the
parnassism and symbolism, Sikelianos without Dannuncio and Whitman,
Kavafis without Baudelaire and Symbolism(see the study of Papanoutsos),
Karyotakis without the French "phantaisist", Seferis without Valery and
Eliot, Elytis without the surrealism and Elyar. However, this dependence
of our literature should not be regarded a slavery or fruitless
imitation, we would say that it is a need, which with the contribution
of the richest local elements, the didactic dependence from the foreign
maturity, emancipates it to creative independence, giving it, in many
cases, not only "intensively Greek" europality, but also something
On the other hand the
inferiority of our language (a language spoken only by a few million
people) as also the almost unexistance of a systematic literary
education, have made indispensable the need of good translations and the
writing of serious and enlightening essays about subjects and figures of
the great foreign literature. The only thing is that these works should
be effected and see the light in their time. If they appear before it
they have no effect, no influence on the present, which is always of the
first importance. They might, perhaps be later from the literary
historians regarded as works precociously innovating. If they appear
after their time, the most probable is that they will not be noticed, or
they will be regarded as something self-understood. They will not
surprise and as a sequence they will not bear fruits. Now, which is this
"proper hour"? We would look for it, in that brief always but splendid
period, that a great foreign writer (mainly poet) is discovered in
Greece, as the Alpha and Omega of poetry. And influencing many and
various idiosyncracies, incubates talents, forms personalities, creates
schools and situations.
We shall stand to one only
example. Eliot. In 1925, Takis Papatsonis, always well informed to the
foreign intellectual and poetic things, translates and publishes in the
"kyklos" periodical the "Waste Land" of Eliot. This translation passes
unobserved. But from the time that the "Waste Land" will reappear in our
language, translated from Seferis, in 1937, Eliot seems to have acquired
the Greek poetic nationality and will start to influence our poetry with
an influence that still lasts .The translation of Seferis except its
value and the fact that a wonderful introduction to the "difficult"
poetry of Eliot was accompanying it, had come in its time. Because an
atmosphere of "new poetry", a demand for "new poetry" had been formed by
Seferis himself of the "Strofi", the "Sterna" and the "Mythistorima" and
from surrealism with Empiricos, Elytis and Nikitas Randos. Tendencies,
achievements and poetic personalities different, aspiring, however, to
the same ideal. Within one decade happened what we know as "new poetry".
Since then have passed forty years.
During this time, how many of
the "new", have not been forgotten, how many have not been surpassed,
how many of these we do not live as a lawful custom, often so boring!
And how many of those that happened in our youth (we mean in the poetry
area) we don't yearn that they would happen again! For instance I would
yearn that Eliot would shock me, as when I red for the first time the
hellenized "Waste Land". But is it possible that the same thing could be
twice discovered? I do not speak only personally, I also consider that
which we call "a whole" or an "epoch". And now, I conclude to the aspect
that cases as that of Eliot (and that of Baudelaire before) function
like renovating wonders, in their country and the foreign literatures,
only for one epoch. However that does not exclude that some younger one,
at any moment, could discover them. So Eliot after Seferis, had also
other admirers and transplanters, in Greece. The poet G. Sarantis who
translated "gerontion" and again the "Waste Land"(however without any
impression from his translations), the poet A. Decavalle, who very
young, twenty years before, transcribed the "Four Quartets" accompanying
them with analyses and information, Merope Economou, who three years
ago, I think, enriched the Greek "eliotism" with a volume of
translations of his poems, enlightened with precious comments and
information. Nevertheless no one of these works, that however each one
has its objective value, can be regarded a station. They are normal
sequential of two estuaries in one person : of the already permanent
poetic status quo which eliotism constitutes in our poetry and the
admiration that some one is natural to feel, at times, for a poet like
Eliot, who may not surprise as when first appeared, however his poetry
continues to last. And the living (and not that of a museum)duration of
a poet is something deeper and more spiritual from the often, transient
phantasmagoria of the surprise which causes a new poetic
All of what we have said, is
perhaps an excessive, but for us necessary exposition of explanatory
points in order to justly weigh or even partly justify, the perhaps
delayed work of Mrs Athanassiou about Eliot. Mrs Athanassiou will be
right if she tells us(as she stresses emphatically in her book) that an
other is the Eliot of the "Waste Land" and quite opposite the Eliot of
the "Quartets", which moreover had been written after the "Waste Land".
The first Eliot is the lost one within the decay of the Western
civilization, the presenter and bitter commentator of a decay. The
second is one who discovered the church of Christ and in its Apocalypse
found the salvation, depicting in a way surprisingly original but
hermetic his march towards the redeeming apocalypse. So we have two
different poets? Certainly not, because the expressive power of Eliot
though graduated and differentiated from his first to the last verses,
the same poet and above all the same master shows.
To us, at least, in a similar
way Eliot appeals with his first poems and with the "Waste Land". We
would, moreover, say that the "Quartets" kept us a little farther from
Eliot (as they kept Seferis too, who as he confesses, has proclaimed
them untranslatable, at least by him) up to the moment that the detailed
convincing and around a limpid core structured analyses of Mrs
Athanassiou, have cleared up them, verse by verse, image to image,
symbol to symbol, their hermetism and their all kind successive secrets.
A permanent orientation of this core is a deep spiritual mysticism,
almost religious, which is intended towards one from inside "an
innermost spiritual apocalypse of the Absolute", as Mrs Athanassiou
continuously emphasizes it and of the Supreme Knowledge, which are not
but other names of God.
According to her God inspired
thought, the" Four Quartets" syntheses wholly symbolic and allegorical,
reshape the sensible experiences of Eliot, the absolutely
individualized, which are connected, with his infantile age, so
absorbing of the metaphysical English scenery, the mysterious, the
"dreamy" mingled with elements of the hard dantic theologism and of the
oriental mystic religions- they remodel them into evocative and
insinuating symbols, well-knit with musical harmony between them to end
to a faith to the Absolute Knowledge, that is the only one that alone
can save us from the weathering pessimism, the mortuary atmosphere and
the psychosomatic, corruption of the "Waste Land".
One admires the relative
studies and researches that Mrs Athanassiou has effected, her analytical
skill that not a moment she departs from the texts of the "Quartets".
She clears up with absolute conviction all the symbolic images and the
partial and general messages of Eliot. And one wonders in parallel, this
most keen passion, the faith of her to the Absolute and the Supreme
Knowledge, which is not a definitely proved reality, a world tangible,
but an innermost condition of divine apocalypse.
That who has the power and that
who has prepared himself to accept it, as Eliot, and perhaps more than
Eliot, his Greek officiator and interpretress, should have by-passed or
solved all the tormenting problems of the existence. And having taken
roots fast, within Faith, to savour blissfully the experiences of the
present and the past tangible world and see them perceptively as
crystalline reflections of the Divine Reality. The slightest, in our
epoch and elect minority of mystics and devout has this grace that
finally Eliot acquired too. For this there is no doubt and even more as
Mrs Athanassiou interpreted the "Quartets". Eliot like an other Dante,
epic lyric and philosophical, putting parts together of the shattered
world within the" Waste Land" of his modern world, passing from the
Inferno flames and the expiations of the Purgatory, has arrived to this
paradisiacal summit where he has been able to face his own Saint Triad
"Rose-Beatrice-Virgin" and create the cameo of the deductive word of the
Quick now, here, always-
condition of perfect simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All maner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in -folded
In to the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
This Eliot has Mrs Athanassiou
drawn out from the Quartets and stood him in front of us, unified and
mystic, like a prophet that, in the form of one super civilized
contemporary poet, escaped from the Bible and came to submit the message
of salvation. We, believing that to accept, somebody, any one message,
it is a matter clearly personal, we stand with devotedness and suspicion
in front of this Supreme Knowledge and the Absolute, though the need to
exist is pervading us. And moreover we adopt it when a poetry like that
of Eliot transmits it to us: this so precious and rare "condition of
perfect simplicity that does not cost less than everything".
In this so difficult
achievement of" perfect simplicity", is grounded the artistic
construction of the poetry of Eliot. And to be sincere, this "difficult
simplicity", that so much differs from the easy familiarity (Ritsos) and
that in Greece only Seferis has poetically understood, is more
interesting for us than the specific message of the "Quartets". Because
only with this "difficult simplicity" can any message be
transubstantiated and poetically transmitted- with the danger, of
course, to be acceptable even the most permicious message, as for
instance the messages of Kavafis and Karyotakis.
There are certainly other ways
of poetic transmissions. But this "perfect simplicity that costs as much
as everything" our age, that is so distrustful to every sumptuousness,
is seeking. This age of ours that while it builds skyscrapers and raises
them provokingly towards the divine, at the same time is turning its
back to them, searching with nostalgia the lands of the God, where "we
were ascending to the tree to pass the summer". But then, we did not
know about God. We where only sensing him diffused everywhere. Now, with
the "Quartets" we can approach Him. This possibility makes even easier
the thorough and also passionate analysis of Mrs Athanassiou. And she is
so absolute in her faith, so that as subtitle of her book does not
hesitate to write with daring (some would characterize critical naivety)
the exaggeration that the "Four Quartets" is the most important poem of
all time as a message to the twentieth century". Mrs Athanassiou should
not forget that centuries before had been raised in the West the
enormous and unrivalled cathedral of the "Divine comedy". However, this
exaggeration -if it is really, an exaggeration- and if, as a message, it
is not possible to influence, but slightly not the inexisting for the
spirit masses, but the people and mainly, the younger, of the thinking
men, reveals fervent mystic nature of Mrs Athanassiou. The initiated
being, who regards as her mission the initiation of others through
poetry, but who primarily admires it in Thomas Eliot.
For the translation of the
"Quartets" we do not think that we have a better in our language. There
that Seferis declared inability, Mrs Athanassiou dared. Not being able
to communicate with the original, we are confined to judge it as a Greek
text. We find it faultless, clear, eloquent, comprehensible, limpid,
warm, and harmonic. A poetic text that is transmitted. When the
remarkable poet Antony Decavalle translated the "Quartets" was still
very young. And we suspect that if Seferis declared his inability to
translate the Quartets he did not do it as he believed, because he did
not find our language capable, for an adequate transfer to our own, but
because their mystical content kept him away and the dark density of the
symbols, that their natural ambiguity we know how much makes difficult
the finding, of corresponding and in particular exact expressions and
words in other language. But Mrs Athanassiou, that with so much
stability has made the course of the "Quartets" from the form to the
content and from the content(after its spiritual conquest)to the
cloudless now form, seems to have surmounted all the relative
As far as the "Quartets" are
concerned, beyond their central message which the essay of Mrs
Athtnassiou clarifies, have so much poetry, that even if we dettachly
read them (as it usually happens with the long verse poems, new vistas
of nature, of life, of time of memory and especially of the poetic art
are open which so much occupied Eliot and his verses in his admirable
Here then the (if we
say) delayed appearance of this work for Eliot , is redeemed by the
insurmountable, as also by a more recent expressive, "poetic" of it.
NEA ESTIA PERIODCAL (No
The most complete work has been
given to us by the poetess Efi Athanassiou , who achieved to analyse
verse by verse the "Quartets" in order to reach their central meaning
and their final teaching, which is a "teaching quintessence" .
NEA ESTIA PERIODCAL(No
The essay of Efi Athanassiou,
on the "Four Quartets" of T.S. Eliot ,brings something new in
the area of essay in the Greek letters, a weight of essence and truth,
that has entirely ignored the philological concept. It is an original
work of exceptional importance, not only for the Greek but also for the
It has its sources in the
deepest understanding of this most important work of the poet and it is
mostly a communication.
With daring overturns almost
the greatest part of the existing criticism and bibliography on the work
revealing, with substantial philosophical probing the real meaning of
this poetical work and as a sequence of the whole of the remaining work
of the poet, because the" Four Quartets" is the quintessence of his
offer to literature and also his important message.
With deepest, perhaps unique,
for this work, capability of intrusion, daring, sincerity and simplicity
it interprets its most polyhedric meanings and symbols and as with some
key opens this poetry which had been regarded strange and hermetic,
because the revealing of its meaning had not been achieved.
The essay constitutes of four
parts: Excellent translation, introductory interpretation of the work,
main body of the translation and clarifying of the attitude, the
influences and the direction of the poet, epilogue.
The introductory interpretation
with unshakable comparative and analytical documentation proves the
origin, the importance and the meaning of the work and places it in the
whole of the poets work, clarifying the relationship of evolution and
poetic weight with his previous works.
The skilful translation renders
the measure of the understanding of the translator, as also its range
and its calibre for conveying, this of so great demands, poetry in the
Greek language and it has retained, so remarkably for a translation, the
poetry and atmosphere of the work, while it has, in parallel retained
the maximum exactitude.
If should be,
characteristically, mentioned, that Seferis realizing the unsurmounted,
for him, difficulties of transferring, this poetry, to our language,
declares, in the comments of the translation of the "Waste Land", that
the Greek language is not adequately ripe for this transfer. Perhaps
only this is enough to give the measure of the achievement of the essay
of Efi Athanassiou.
The third part, the meaning,
which is entirely new and original, shows the entire intrusion of the
writer to the meaning and experience of the poet and restores the work
from the innumerable misunderstandings that have happened to it, within
its exceptionally extended bibliography.
It combines exactitude and
going deeper that clarifies what seems dark even to the properly
The fourth part summarizes the
importance of the work, the attitude, the position and the influences of
the poet and gives a lively image of its importance within the
contemporary age and the present evolutionary phase of humanity. The
essay is written with a unique, for the kind and the Greek letters,
simplicity which shows clearly the disposition to escape from every form
of philology, remaining in the essence, to reveal and highlight with the
simplest means the importance and the meaning of the work of the poet.
In this work it is even evident
an ability of philosophical correlation which elucidates basic, for the
understanding of the work of the poet, relations of philosophy and
religion and the meaning of symbols and archetypes.
In this essay there
is also an ability of deep intrusion to the human condition, a research
which has settled down , a maturity that tends to wisdom, which are
indispensable elements in order to give all the realistic optimism and
finally all the wisdom which is included in the last and most important
work of the poet.
Professor of the University of
(Proposal during the judgement of
the book for the award of Ourani Institution of Athens Academy)
I thank you very much for the"
Four Quartets" you were so kind to send me. I don't know English, so
that looking at the poem, by itself, like a language to communicate to
me the shiver and its deeper meaning. Because except many others, I
believe that the poetic language is, by itself a bearer of ancestral and
diachronic messages, if of course the other languages function like the
Greek. The language is similar with the genetic code: except of the
temporal, the past and the ancestral, includes the tomorrow and the
posterity and who knows what else enscribed.
On this side, your exhaustive,
enthusiastic, oracular interpretative essay has initiated me to this
masterly poem. It revealed to me some of its deepest cores, as the
meaning of time(it brought me again very close to our prosocratic
Skithinos) and to the universal "moving-still", which was first formed
by the Heracletian and Parmenidian word, and which was integrated, as an
allegory from the genius of Zinon.
I have also marked your optic
corner of the mystic meditation (what a pity than we are obliged to use
finite terms), of the allegory, the symbol, the transcendence, the
meditation, the meaning of time etc.
To congratulate you is not
enough. I prefer to thank you.
I have completed the reading of
your book on the "Four Quartets" of Eliot- if I can call it reading,
because what your book needs it is the sinking in the many and deep
meanings it contains, which create your exemplary comments- and i write
you to express my sincere appreciation of this work of yours, with the
multiple form and meaning.
First of all your translation-
a Seferis justly confessed his fears to attempt something analogous- is
an achievement. Its greatest merit is that it can stand by itself as if
it was an original text and not a translation. The language is robust as
it literally renders, with the free verse of the poetic prose the
difficult nuances of the original, attractively clear and balanced.
thought of the poet, with the mystical meanings which are hidden at the
back of successive symbols and associations comes to reveal with clarity
and in a way not in the least tiresome your comment, which is based on a
breath of knowledge, philosophical above all, but others too, with
philological power that methodically intrudes to his thought, that the
poet himself never wanted to explain, leaving the others to be all at
sea, in the flood of the meanings of the transcendental way he selected
intervention, decisively useful and responsibly grounded constitutes a
contribution to our letters and an element of reference to the
understanding of the work of this great poet.
Having a great
experience in the area of the book, as translator, poetess and essaysts,
the writer Efi Athanassiou attempts to approach, through the poetic
word, a new way of writing the spiral writing.
As she mentions in
the introductory note which precedes the poem, the reasons which led her
to this experimentation are two: The first is the aspiration to bring
the reader in a more direct contact with the text, obliging him to
participate more actively, since the reading of the objectively peculiar
way that is written, requires more concentration, that is more effort
and sentimental contact with the poem. The second reason is to symbolize
in the most direct way, the march of all the living beings, from the
still centre-symbol of the world and of the eternity, in their evolution
towards energy fields that is life in its infinite essence.
The "Cyclic poem"
which recently circulated from the editions Pyrinos Cosmos, written
wholly in the aforementioned spiral writing, reflects, therefore, the
effort of Efi Athanassiou to indulge and analyse the mystery of the
Universal function through the recycling.
"Third eye" periodical, no 46