Biography and History

Kaiē Tsitselē (or Kay Cicellis, name by which she is known in English), 1926-2001, was a Greek author who wrote in both English and Greek. Her linguistic biography is complex. Born in Marseille to Greek parents, who seem to have normally spoken French with her, she learned English from an English governess, and she very soon came to feel that English was the language most suited to her writing. She had never visited Greece until, at the age of ten, she moved with her family to Athens. For the first three years after this move, she received private lessons at home, and she was later to claim that this was when she first learned Greek. In 1939 she enrolled at the American College for Girls in the seaside Athens suburb of Hellēniko. It was about this time that she began to write literary texts in English. As she wrote in 1956, “at the very moment when I recognized the English language as my language, I also recognized Greece as my country, my element. These two discoveries, though simultaneous, were irreconcilable” (Tsitselē 1956a). After the German invasion of Greece in 1941, she moved with her family to her father’s ancestral island of Cephalonia. Once the Second World War was over, Tsitselē settled in Athens, where she lived for most of the rest of her life. However, she spent two extended periods in London in 1950-1 and 1955-6, several months in Karachi, and about four years in a small town near Manchester, England (1958-62). The reason why she spent time in these last two places was that her husband Nikos Paleologos was working there.

Most of Tsitselē’s literary writing until the 1980s was in English, and all of her first six books, published in the period 1950-1967, were written in English. The most successful phase of her career as an English writer lasted from 1950 to the early 1960s. During the period between 1974 and 1996 she became one of the foremost translators of modern Greek writing – both fiction and non-fiction – into English. After some texts of hers in Greek had appeared sporadically over a period of forty years, her career as a Greek author enjoyed a remarkable late flowering in the 1990s, when she published a series of stories in magazines, which were collected, together with others, in a volume entitled Ho choros tōn hōrōn ( The Dance of the Hours, Athens 1998). This, her first and only book written in Greek, was awarded the Greek National Short-Story Prize in 1999.

Source: From the finding aid for C0801

  • Kaiē Tsitselē Papers. 1898-2001 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0801

    Consists of personal papers of Kaiē Tsitselē, Greek author and translator, who contributed to the dissemination of the Modern Greek literature outside Greece. The collection consists of manuscripts of some of Tsitselē's novels, short stories, radio scripts, and book reviews along with her English translations of Greek works. Correspondence with her friends and colleagues completes the collection.