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The Barbarians Arrive Today
Poems & Prose
Translated by Evan Jones
Categories: 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century, British, Canadian, Greek, LGBTQ+, Translation
Imprint: Carcanet Classics
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (352 pages)
(Pub. Sep 2020)
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Sep 2020)
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A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year 2020
A Review 31 Book of the Year 2020
With The Barbarians Arrive Today, Evan Jones has produced the classic English Cavafy for our age. Expertly translated from Modern Greek, this edition presents Cavafy's finest poems, short creative prose and autobiographical writings, offering unique insights into his life's work.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Constantine Petrou Cavafy (1863-1933) was a minor civil servant who self-published and distributed his poems among friends; he is now regarded as one of the most significant poets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an influence on writers across generations and languages. The broad, rich world of the Mediterranean and its complex history are his domain, its days and nights of desire and melancholy, ambition and failure - with art always at the centre of life.
'In a year filled with absence and longing, Evan Jones' translation of The Barbarians Arrive Today was the Cavafy I so desperately needed but didn't know I wanted. Fresh off his searing, strikingly relevant, Later Emperors - a collection of poems well versed in the antiquarian but also well situated in the now - Jones, who is also a native speaker of modern Greek, is a perfect match for Cavafy's verse.... Evan Jones' new Cavafy is one that will easily hold up for the next 25 years or more.'
Alexandra Marraccini, Review 31
'Evan Jones merits the rewards of modesty; not improving what needs no improvement, nor trumping the ace with jokers of his own, lean and keen he ghosts cleverly along, oddly angular Poet of the City on his arm.'
'Do we need another Cavafy, the most translated of modern Greek poets? Surprisingly, Evan Jones shows us that the answer is a resounding "yes." Cavafy famously left behind a body of 154 "canonical poems," a number corresponding conveniently with the number of Shakespeare's sonnets. But he also left us with 37 "repudiated" poems, some of which were composed in the synthetic literary "katherevousa" register of Greek, 75 "hidden" poems, and 30 "unfinished" or "imperfect" poems. Cavafy also wrote prose about some of the same subject matter, and that explored his ideas about poetry. Jones does not attempt to give us a complete overview of Cavafy's work, but by putting poems in thematic categories, and allowing "hidden" poems to brush up against "canonical" ones (one could note that the manuscript of "The Horses of Achilles" and of the much less well known "Priam's Night March" are written on two sides of the same piece of paper) we see them in a new, revealing light. Jones is sensitive not only to the sense, but the sound of the Greek, rhyming where the original does, and his afterword, while wearing its considerable scholarship lightly, reorients Cavafy's oeuvre for the reader. It is a great pleasure - one of the most important Cavafyian words - to have these poems and prose writings in one volume.'
A.E. Stallings Praise for Evan Jones 'Greek-Canadian poet Evan Jones certainly appears to inhabit easily the worlds of first millennium Rome and early second millennium Byzantium brought to life in these poems [...] It is almost reassuring in our even more turbulent times, to hope that a future Evan Jones might cast an equally cold eye on the reign of our own later emperors.'
The High Window
'These are quiet poems that manage, with remarkable and deceptive simplicity, to get under the skin. I am delighted that lockdown made me acquainted with them.'
'The trajectory of Jones' style deepens and intensifies as the book goes on; its music beautifully controlled to gather and sharpen. But, although his subjects are all aristocrats, there isn't a grandiloquent, unnecessary phrase in the whole collection. Plutarch and Gibbon may sit behind Evan Jones but Later Emperors is a lovely, unique working, whose contemporary relevance is never overt but subtly and sensitively implicit.'
Ian Pople, The North
'Jones's spare, evocative, and imagistic verse offers, through half-glimpsed narratives of ambition and loss, a rumination on the transience of things in this world [...] Later Emperors is a lyrical book, somber yet lovely. Rare among works of poetry today, it offers not only beauty but also a wisdom rooted in time and timelessness.'
Benjamin Myers, World Literature Today
'Later Emperors shows it's possible to write with the "sound of sense" while creating an allegory for our time. Jones uses the Roman Empire as a blueprint for learning from history, But his poems are not judgmental. They let readers see venality and decline, drawing from a range of personas steeped in the capricious nature of twin political valences' power and appetite.'
Nyla Matuk, The Vehicule Press Blog
'The poems in Later Emperors surprise and delight like those incisive, wry and honest inscriptions that come down to us from antiquity seemingly having survived everything, not least history's ravages. At the same time, there's a deeply distinctive literary wit at work in this book as Jones's lines limn (and update) the lives of the fleetingly powerful with the acuity and concision of Martial, the wit and heart of Horace. How those later emperors resemble the tyrants of our own time! What a skilled guide to them we have in Evan Jones!'
Evan Jones is an intelligent, allusive poet who has elegantly synthesized his roots in Greek culture. These quietly serious poems throw up glimpses of dream and myth, and do so in a context of real thoughtfulness, free of rhetoric but rich in formal control.
Fiona Sampson [T]he most daring reassessment of our country's canon in years... In a better world, which is to say an alternate reality, this compact and highly readable anthology would be the book your CanLit course makes you buy.
Jason Guriel, Maisonneuve Riots broke out in downtown Montreal earlier in the month after the launch of a new anthology of contemporary Canadian verse at the Bloated Behemoth Book Store. That book, it was later discovered by a man who had subjected it to forensic examination, contained shockingly little verse by poets born in Canada. Several hailed from south of the border, and a third is said to have been resident in London (England), earning a meager living as an antiquarian book dealer and 'practising orientalist', for the past several decades. Margaret Atwood was not even represented in the collection...
Michael Glover, The Bow-Wow Shop The reader...will experience sweet discoveries ranging from the territory of early twentieth century poets W.W.E. Ross and Alfred Bailey to later poets John Thompson and David Wevill, from French-Canadian Anne Hébert to the likes of Robyn Sarah, Don Coles, and Mary Dalton.
Ingrid Ruthig, Northern Poetry Review Swift and Jones... have put together a wonderful anthology.
Michael Lista, National Post This is a lovely book; full poems that really stand up, and to which you will keep returning.
Ian Pople, The Manchester Review I could make a list of all my favourite Canadian poets who are excluded from this volume because of the editors' high modernist interests. But they have defined the story they want to tell, and they have every right to do so. There is no rule saying that editors have to be democratic or representative in their choices. And, given those choices, I like what they have done. I don't even have to be British to appreciate it!
Robert Lecker, Canadian Literature I can think of no equivalent for what Swift and Jones have attempted: to rebuild a national canon from scratch using the most obscure figures. Is it subversive? Well, factor in that Carcanet is one of the U.K.'s leading poetry presses, that the last foreign-published Canadian poetry anthology appeared half a century ago, and that many British readers will take their first cues about Canadian poetry from this book - then you get a sense of the exhilarating sneak attack that has been perpetrated on our image abroad.
Carmine Starnino, Quill & Quire
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