His love for Greece changed the Greek poetry
Born Odysseus Alepoudelis on November 2nd, 1911, in Heraklion on the island of Crete, with origins in Mytilene, Odysseus Elytis is his literary alias.
Some of his famous poems are Worthy it Is, Sun the First, Orientations and many more. He’s acknowledged as one of the poets that revived Greek poetry. Several of his poems were set to music and his poetry collections were translated in tens of languages.
When Elytis was 3, his family relocated to Athens. In the autumn of 1924, he started writing for the magazine The Children’s Formation under various aliases. He loved nature, travelling, sports and literature.
His family pushed him into studying chemistry, but in 1930 he finally enrolled in Law School. In 1935, Elytis met Seferis, Katsimbalis, Theotokas and Karantonis, who were publishing their work in the journal New Letters at that time. In November of the same year, he published a series of poems under his life alias Elytis.
When the war began, Elytis joined the army. On December 13th 1940, he was transferred on the advanced fire line and on February 26th of the next year, he was urgently transported to the Hospital of Ioannina suffering from severe abdominal typhus, where he eventually survived by miracle.
During the occupation years he was one of the original members of the Palamas Circle founded on May 30th, 1943. In 1945, following Seferis’s advice serving the position of Private Secretary to Archbishop Damaskinos at that time, he was appointed Programme Director of the Greek National Radio. In 1948, Elytis relocated to Paris to study Philosophy at the University of Sorbonne.
During the summer of 1950, he traveled to Spain and from 1950 to 1951 he worked with BBC in London. Some time earlier, he had started writing Worthy it Is. In 1953, he has served Programme Director of the Greek National Radio for a year, appointed by the Papagos administration. At the end of that year, he became Member of the European Society of the Culture in Venice and member of the advice of administration of the Theatre of Art of Karolos Kuhn.
In 1958 and after a 15-year period of poetic silence, Elytis published excerpts of Worthy it Is in the magazine Art Review. The full length poem was published in March 1960 by Ikaros and later received the First State Poetry Prize. In 1964, composer Mikis Theodorakis started setting Worthy it Is to music, having already been working with Elytis on the project since 1961. In 1965, Elytis received the badge of Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by King Constantine. In 1978, he received Doctor Honoris Causa from the Philosophy School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and in 1979 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature, followed by several awards and distinctions in Greece and abroad, like the Tribute of Honour by the Greek Parliament, the Golden Medal of Honour by the Municipality of Athens, the Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Sorbonne, the Elytis Chair of Neohellenic Studies at the Rutgers University of New Jersey and the Benson Silver Medal by the Royal Society of Literature in London.
Odysseus Elytis died on March 18th, 1996, by heart failure in Athens.
– He was born Odysseas Alepoudelis.
– In 1960, he received the First State Poetry Prize.
– To the present day, he’s the second and last Greek poet honoured with the Nobel Prize of Literature.