Monday, 4 May 2009

Seferis among the barbarians in Hyperborea

When the poet Giorgios Seferis was secretary at the Greek consulate in London in 1931, he lived in a two-room furnished flat at 8 Antrim Grove in Belsize Park, a pleasant-enough part of North London, squeezed in between even more salubrious Hampstead and Primrose Hill. Not that Seferis was happy in London. He found the city grimy, gloomy and depressing and yearned for the Greek climate and landscape. The only things that appealed to Seferis about England were the optical illusions the flames of an English fireside created, and the Thames, with its docks and ocean-bound ships. In his biography of Seferis, Waiting for the Angel, Roderick Beaton describes 8 Antrim Grove thus:

'The house belonged to an elderly widow and her daughter; [Seferis'] rooms were cleaned by a maid, who carried with her an aroma of beer and bacon… The other side of Antrim Grove has been rebuilt since the 1960s; Number 8 looks much as it must have done then; a demure, semi-detached house with bow windows to the front and a tiny front garden, almost hidden behind the traditional English privet hedges. George's rooms were probably on the attic floor.'

I passed by Antrim Grove recently and took these photos. The street and houses are well-heeled; yet Number 8, for some reason, is dilapidated.


Hermes said...

What barbarous place for a Greek to live in!!! I am surprised his poetry did not suffer. A truly great man very attuned to his people.

john akritas said...

And remember we're talking Belsize Park – which is one of the leafiest parts of London. On your last comment: two of Seferis' greatest heroes were Makriyiannis and Theophilos – demotic artists – which indicates the sort of Greece and Greeks Seferis admired the most.