Zissimos Lorenzatos

The Drama of Quality

Selected Essays

Translated by Liadain Sherrard

Zissimos Lorenzatos (1915–2004) is generally acknowledged to have been one of the most important men of letters in Greece of the twentieth century. An essayist, poet and thinker, he was perhaps the last of his generation with a vision that was both deeply religious and humane. His profound knowledge of European literature and thought, and his familiarity with the writings and philosophy of the East, along with his thorough assimilation of the long Greek tradition, enabled him to explore, with unusual insight, the spirit both of Europe and of modern Greece.

This second selection of his essays to be published in English — the first, The Lost Center and Other Essays in Greek Poetry, was published by Princeton University Press in 1980 — includes his studies on the Greek writers Papadiamandis, Sikelianos and Capetanakis, and on the architect Dimitris Pikionis, and it concludes with a lengthy discussion of the American poet Ezra Pound, who called himself the ‘apostle of Europe’, and who visited Greece and met Lorenzatos in 1965.

As Dr David Ricks writes of these essays in his Foreword: ‘Zissimos Lorenzatos writes about things that matter in a way that matters. . . . No-one who aspires to understand modern Greek culture should ignore them.’

‘...the soil in which Lorenzatos digs to plant the trees of his essays is unusually rich. Homer, Plato, the Bible, Dante, Greek poets from Solomos to Elytis, and a daunting range of European writers from Dante to the present are constantly in Lorenzatos's mind and following one another in sometimes bewildering profusion on the page. (And here the twenty pages of notes provided at the back of the book assist greatly in making Lorenzator’s densely allusive style more approachable.) The breadth and depth of Lorenzatos’s knowledge is humbling...’.

Elizabeth Jeffreys, in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies.

‘Lorenzatos is an anomaly in today’s cultural climate, writing and publishing plainspoken but intensely learned essays about little-read poets. Generally, his work begins and ends with Greece and Greek letters, but the intellectual and cultural ambit he traverses in between is arguably unmatched by any other living essayist.’

Avi Sharon, in The Journal of Modern Greek Studies.

‘Most of Lorenzatos’s essays take a writer’s works as a starting point but — as Solomos would have put it — rise perpendicularly from there. . . . [He] is concerned with ta megista and ta eschata; he writes against history, sub specie aeternitatis, and he finds literature the most congenial way of discussing his philosophical and theological concerns.’

Peter Mackridge, in The Anglo-Hellenic Review.

  • 234 pages, 21.0 x 13.5 cm, sewn pages, 2000

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