Sucking and beheading dicks: Seferis’s colonial/gender anxieties


Akis Gavriilidis




George Seferis has long been established as the pre-eminently national –and at the same time European- among “our” poets, and more specifically as an exponent of Greekness, masculinity, and national anti-dictatorship unity, although politically conservative or moderate. This article tries to show that these classifications are based on a partial and selective reading of his work. If we turn our attention to hitherto neglected pages of his work unpublished during his lifetime, to his diaries and letters, a considerably different picture emerges: there, we find a warm interest and concern for the colonial situation, on the one hand, and for practices of sexual subjectivation on the other. In the 1930s, Seferis’s writings show a special interest in Indian culture, including a satirical poem and a letter about a dance performance he attended in London. During the next decade, while in South Africa, he was impressed by the condition of the natives there. This does not necessarily mean he adopted an anti-racist perspective; his reaction was a mixed and ambiguous one, spanning from contempt to fascination and even envy In the 50s, Seferis paid a better known and spoken about visit to Cyprus. From this encounter, most people, including literary critics, kept its flag-waving dimension and its supposed backing for the struggle of Greek Cypriots for “Enosis” (annexation to Greece). If we look into his writings themselves, however, we will see him engaging, both positively and negatively, with a Eurocentric colonial discourse and a mythology of exoticism, which he tries to undermine at times. This sensitivity is due to the fact that Seferis himself, when he was integrated into the Greek society and the Greek state as a refugee from Asia Minor, in 1914, suffered such a colonial classification and surveillance, and therefore could identify with those whom he sees being submitted to similar procedures.


Akis Gavriilidis is a translator and independent researcher (PhD in legal philosophy, post-doctoral research in political anthropology). He has published several texts in Greek, English, and French, and translated texts of others, in books, journals, and the internet.