“The Little Mariner”, Odysseas Elytis
Athens, Greece has been selected as World Book Capital 2018 by UNESCO. In celebration of this designation, we’re sharing some of our favourite authors and books.
The Little Mariner (1970-74) by Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis is one of my favorite, most interesting reads. Some critics debate that somehow this collection did not have the same impact most of his other poems did. It is definitely a more mature work of his and the ways he manipulates poetic language in it can be somewhat perplexing. Elytis alternates between prose and poetry, using a narrator to describe “theatrical” scenes, or first-person narration in short “essay” passages. He fills pages with word-tables that convey meaning to words both by sound and shape, and shifts through space (places) and time.
Among other things, Elytis discusses divinity, the fear of decay and death, and the existential agonies that are most common to all. He references human nature—vices, like the lack of communication—several instances of Greek history, albeit intrigues, bribery, and immoral politics. But he also references the beauty of nature in landscapes (especially of the Cyclades and the Aegean), and images of the Greek sun and the sea. He talks, in unequivocal lyricism, about all the things that make life worth living. And his words act as keys that unlock emotions and childhood memories.
The Little Mariner is a wanderer in search of summer light, crystal-clear seawaters, authenticity of feelings, and the elusiveness of immortality. Through him, the poet motivates us all to re-evaluate our lives, experience more of nature, live free and dream big!
You can find The Little Mariner on Amazon translated by poet Olga Broumas (1988), Professor Emerita of the Practice of English in Brandeis University.
Original title: Ο Mικρός Nαυτίλος — Publication year: 1985