Demetrios Capetanakis was born in Smyrna, in Asia Minor, where his father worked as a doctor. His father died in 1922, and shortly afterwards there followed the Asia Minor catastrophe and the invasion of Smyrna by the Turkish army; after thirteen days under siege his mother with her three children managed to flee to Athens. In Greece he was educated at the University of Athens, graduating in political science and economics, and then continued his studies at the University of Heidelberg from where, in 1934, he received his doctorate in philosophy. During his university days he wrote a number of philosophical studies in Greek, notably The Struggle of the Solitary Soul, The Mythology of Beauty and Eros and Time, and on his return to Greece lectured at various institutions.
In 1939, with a three-year scholarship from the British Council, he went to the University of Cambridge where he studied under Dadie Rylands, one of Britain's leading Shakespeare scholars. After leaving Cambridge he worked briefly for the Press Office of the Greek Embassy in London.
During his few years in England Capetanakis wrote, in English, mainly literary essays on such people as Proust, Rimbaud, Stephan George, Dostoevsky, Thomas Gray, Horace Walpole and Charlotte BrontÃ«, and at the same time was planning and preparing philosophical studies on Plato and Kierkegaard, works which he was not able to complete. He also met and became friends with notable English literary figures including Edith Sitwell, William Plomer, and in particular the poet, literary editor, and publisher, John Lehmann.
He was diagnosed with leukemia in 1942, and during his illness increasingly concerned himself with his poetry. He died on the 9th March 1944 in Westminster Hospital and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery. John Lehmann published his collected English writings in 1947, with the title Demetrios Capetanakis: A Greek Poet in England.
Texts & References on this site
- The Isles of Greece & Other Poems: With an Introduction by Edith Sitwell
- The Drama of Quality: Selected Essays includes an essay by Zissimos Lorenzatos, ‘Demetrios Capetanakis’, pp. 54–74.