Waiting for the Barbarians (poem)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Waiting for the Barbarians is a Greek poem by Constantine P. Cavafy, written in November 1898 and first published in 1904. It depicts a day in an unnamed city-state where everything has come to a halt because the population is awaiting the arrival of "the barbarians", who they plan to welcome.

Daniel Mendelsohn (one of many translators who has produced an English version of "Waiting") has said that the poem's portrayal of a state whose lawmakers sit in stagnant idleness was "particularly prescient" in light of the United States federal government shutdown of 2013.

Robert Pinsky has described it as "cunning" and "amusing". Charles Simić has called it "an apt description of any state that needs enemies, real or imaginary, as a perpetual excuse", while the Independent considered the poem's final line evocative of "the dangers implied by the end of the Cold War".

J. M. Coetzee's 1980 novel Waiting for the Barbarians is named for the poem.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Waiting for the Barbarians (poem)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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