Nikos Kavvadias

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Nikos Kavvadias (Greek : Νίκος Καββαδίας; January 11, 1910 in Nikolsk-Ussuriysky – February 10, 1975 in Athens) [1] was a Greek poet, writer and a sailor by profession. He used his travels around the world, the life at sea and its adventures, as powerful metaphors for the escape of ordinary people, outside the boundaries of reality. His poems are widely regarded as belonging to symbolism, and he has been characterized by some as a poète maudit.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Ussuriysk City in Primorsky Krai, Russia

Ussuriysk is a city in Primorsky Krai, Russia, located in the fertile valley of the Razdolnaya River, 98 kilometers (61 mi) north of Vladivostok, the administrative center of the krai, and about 60 kilometers (37 mi) from both the China–Russia border and the Pacific Ocean. Population: 158,004 (2010 Census); 157,759 (2002 Census); 158,016 (1989 Census).

Athens Capital and largest city of Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence starting somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.


Early life and education

The statue of the poet Nikos Kavvadias in Argostoli, Kefalonia. 20140408 argostoli256.JPG
The statue of the poet Nikos Kavvadias in Argostoli, Kefalonia.

Kavvadias was born in Nikolsk-Ussuriysky (now Ussuriysk in the Primorsky Krai region of Russia). He believed that this had established a permanent connection between him and the Far East as he wrote in one of his short stories titled "Li". His parents were Greek, originating from the island of Cefalonia and as a young child he had the opportunity to travel extensively. His family returned to their island of origin for a few years before finally moving to Pireus, Athens' port, in 1921. He wrote his first poems while in grammar school.

Primorsky Krai First-level administrative division of Russia

Primorsky Krai (Russian: Примо́рский край, tr.Primorsky kray, IPA: [prʲɪˈmorskʲɪj kraj] is a federal subject of Russia, located in the Far East region of the country and is a part of the Far Eastern Federal District. The city of Vladivostok is the administrative center of the krai, as well as the largest city in the Russian Far East. The krai has the largest economy among the federal subjects in the Russian Far East, and a population of 1,956,497 as of the 2010 Census.

Russian Empire Former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Far East geographical term

The Far East is a geographical term in English that usually refers to East Asia, the Russian Far East, and Southeast Asia. South Asia is sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons. The term "Far East" came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 12th century, denoting the Far East as the "farthest" of the three "easts", beyond the Near East and the Middle East. Likewise, in Qing Dynasty of the 19th and early 20th centuries the term "Tàixī (泰西)" – i.e. anything further west than the Arab world – was used to refer to the Western countries.

In 1928, after having graduated from high school he sat an entrance exam for medical school but as his father fell sick the same year, young Kavvadias was forced to get a job as an office clerk in a shipping company in order to help his family. He lasted only a few months and after his father's death, he went on board the freighter ship Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) as a sailor. For the following years he worked on freighter boats, returning home wretched and penniless. At that point he aspired to train as a captain but settled for a diploma as a radio officer instead, which he got in 1939. By that time however, World War II had started and he was sent to fight in Albania.

Cargo ship ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials onboard from one port to another

A cargo ship or freighter ship is a merchant ship that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year, handling the bulk of international trade. Cargo ships are usually specially designed for the task, often being equipped with cranes and other mechanisms to load and unload, and come in all sizes. Today, they are almost always built by welded steel, and with some exceptions generally have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years before being scrapped.

Sailor person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in doing so

A sailor, seaman, mariner, or seafarer is a person who works aboard a watercraft as part of its crew, and may work in any one in a number of different fields that are related to the operation and maintenance of a ship.

Radio technology of using radio waves to carry information

Radio is the technology of signalling or communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 30 hertz (Hz) and 300 gigahertz (GHz). They are generated by an electronic device called a transmitter connected to an antenna which radiates the waves, and received by a radio receiver connected to another antenna. Radio is very widely used in modern technology, in radio communication, radar, radio navigation, remote control, remote sensing and other applications. In radio communication, used in radio and television broadcasting, cell phones, two-way radios, wireless networking and satellite communication among numerous other uses, radio waves are used to carry information across space from a transmitter to a receiver, by modulating the radio signal in the transmitter. In radar, used to locate and track objects like aircraft, ships, spacecraft and missiles, a beam of radio waves emitted by a radar transmitter reflects off the target object, and the reflected waves reveal the object's location. In radio navigation systems such as GPS and VOR, a mobile receiver receives radio signals from navigational radio beacons whose position is known, and by precisely measuring the arrival time of the radio waves the receiver can calculate its position on Earth. In wireless remote control devices like drones, garage door openers, and keyless entry systems, radio signals transmitted from a controller device control the actions of a remote device.

During the German occupation of Greece, he joined the National Liberation Front (EAM) and became a member of the Communist Party. When the war ended in 1944, he embarked again and traveled continuously, this time as a radio officer, until November 1974. These experiences at sea and the exotic ports he visitited became the material for his poetry. Returning from his last trip and as he was preparing the publication of his third collection of poems, he died suddenly from a stroke on February 10, 1975, after only three months off sea. [2]

National Liberation Front (Greece) Greek resistance movement during World War II

The National Liberation Front, commonly known by its acronym EAM, was the main movement of the Greek Resistance during the Axis occupation of Greece. Its main driving force was the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), but its membership throughout the occupation included several other leftist and republican groups. ΕΑΜ became the first true mass social movement in modern Greek history. Its military wing, the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), quickly grew into the largest armed guerrilla force in the country, and the only one with nation-wide presence. At the same time, from late 1943 onwards, the political enmity between ΕΑΜ and rival resistance groups from the centre and right evolved into a virtual civil war, while its relationship with the British and the British-backed Greek government in exile was characterized by mutual mistrust, leading EAM to establish its own government, the Political Committee of National Liberation, in the areas it had liberated in spring 1944. Tensions were resolved provisionally in the Lebanon Conference in May 1944, when EAM agreed to enter the Greek government in exile under Georgios Papandreou. The organisation reached its peak after liberation in late 1944, when it controlled most of the country, before suffering a catastrophic military defeat against the British and the government forces in the Dekemvriana clashes. This marked the beginning of its gradual decline, the disarmament of ELAS, and the open persecution of its members during the "White Terror", leading eventually to the outbreak of the Greek Civil War.

Stroke Medical condition where poor blood flow to the brain causes cell death

A stroke is a medical condition in which poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death. There are two main types of stroke: ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and hemorrhagic, due to bleeding. Both result in parts of the brain not functioning properly. Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include an inability to move or feel on one side of the body, problems understanding or speaking, dizziness, or loss of vision to one side. Signs and symptoms often appear soon after the stroke has occurred. If symptoms last less than one or two hours it is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke may also be associated with a severe headache. The symptoms of a stroke can be permanent. Long-term complications may include pneumonia or loss of bladder control.

Since his death, his poetry has been popularized in Greece, partly because of Thanos Mikroutsikos who released an album with Kavvadias' poetry set to his music in his very popular albums Σταυρός του Νότου (Southern Cross) [1979] and Γραμμές των Οριζόντων (Horizons' Lines) [1991].

Thanos Mikroutsikos Greek musician

Athanasios "Thanos" Mikroutsikos is a Greek composer and former politician. Although he is never billed as a singer, he has sung many songs. He is considered one of the most important composers of the recent Greek musical scene.

Early writings

His first collection of poems, Marabou was published in 1933 when Kavvadias was in his early twenties and carries the spirit of a romantic young man, impressed with the marvels of the world. Most of the poems tell half-fictitious stories transpiring at sea and at the different ports Kavvadias visited during his journeys. The collection begins with a poem written in the first person about the writer's tragic love for a young wealthy girl he met on board and who later ended as a poor prostitute that he could barely recognise. Other poems recount the stories of a washed out Norwegian captain who died homesick watching a ship sailing to the Lofoten and of an enchanted dagger carrying the curse that its owner shall kill someone they love. Artistically, he was influenced by French literature and the poet Charles Baudelaire whom he cites in many of his works. Like a lot of Greek poetry, Kavvadias' work is characterized by a deep feeling of nostalgia.

Lofoten archipelago and traditional district in Nordland county, Norway

Lofoten is an archipelago and a traditional district in the county of Nordland, Norway. Lofoten is known for a distinctive scenery with dramatic mountains and peaks, open sea and sheltered bays, beaches and untouched lands. Though lying within the Arctic Circle, the archipelago experiences one of the world's largest elevated temperature anomalies relative to its high latitude.

French literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the French language, particularly by citizens of France; it may also refer to literature written by people living in France who speak traditional languages of France other than French. Literature written in French language, by citizens of other nations such as Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, etc. is referred to as Francophone literature. France itself ranks first in the list of Nobel Prizes in literature by country.

Charles Baudelaire French poet

Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

Later works

His other collections are titled Fog, published in 1947 and Traverso published after his death 1975. His second short story titled "Of War", which was to be his last and was also published after his death in 1987, recounts the story of his rescue by a local during a storm. His experiences during World War II affected him profoundly and as a result, his later works became increasingly political and in support of both the communists in Greece and the general leftist movements throughout the world. One of these poems is about the death of Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto (Che) Guevara, written as an answer to the criticisms received by some of his more polemic comrades who thought that his poems over-romanticized the harsh and dangerous life of sailors who were potential symbols of class struggle.

Another is about the execution of Andalusian poet and playwright Federico García Lorca by the Francoists which, in the poem, is compared with the destruction of the Greek village of Distomo and the executions at Kaisariani which were carried out by the Nazi forces that occupied Greece.

His only novel The Shift was published in 1954 and recounts the stories told by the sailors on their night shift at the ship's bridge. Images from exotic places, prostitutes, captains gone mad and memories of the war blend together, to form a dreamy world of lucid forms, part fictional, part true.

Although not considered an innovator of the height of Odysseas Elytis,[ according to whom? ] he is popular among Greeks and his best poems taught at schools throughout the country. He is considered by many to embody of the Greek "soul" because of his romantic affiliation with the sea and its journeys and for his genuinely humane outlook.[ according to whom? ]

A selection of his poetry, with some of his shorter prose, translated into English by Simon Darragh, is available under the title Wireless Operator from the London Publisher Enitharmon.




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  1. "AGRA Publications". 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  2. BooksInfo Website on Nikos Kavadias, retrieved on 14 December 2009
  4. " Esmeralda (Kavvadias)". Retrieved 2019-01-25.