on 28 December 2000
This book is the spiritual autobiography of Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the most famous Greek writers of the 20th century. He was from Krete, like the famous renaissance painter el-Greco, to whom the writer is "reporting" his life. This is not an autobiography based on a day-to-day diary, this is a book about the travel through life of one of the most extraordinary spirits of our century. Interestingly, this spiritual travel starts with an actual travel (of Kazantzakis) around Greece (at his early twenties). A restless spirit, a unique character, an outstanding personality with remarkable abilities to describe and narrate, Kazantzakis drives the reader through the journey of his life, from his earliest memories as a school boy, to his valuable friendships and relations; from the figures and images that affected his views, to the thoughts and ideas that influenced his life. The part of the book where Kazantzakis describes his friendship with the poet Sikelianos was breathtaking, as the reader can observe and comprehend the meeting of two individual and different spirits and the effect and influence of the charismatic and generally optimistic Sikelianos to the eternally seeking and (spiritually) unsatisfied Kazantzakis. The tempting narrative and the attractive descriptions of stories and situations together with the spiritual concerns, the thoughts and ideas of the writer, suggest an extremely interesting reading and a book that you can never forget.
on 5 January 2011
This is one of the best, if not the best book I have ever read. Following Kazantzakis spiritual search over
his lifetime, I felt so close to him, so troubled like him, and at the end liberated.
The search for peace in his soul, by first looking in Christianity, Nietzsche, Buddhism, Lenin and Zorba
made me feel emotions that are difficult to explain with words.
It is a philosophical and a spiritual bible.
on 12 July 2013
If "Zorba The Greek" seems semi-autobiographical then 'Report To Greco' is wholly autobiographical and pretends to be nothing else. Written while close to death, it has not suffered from endless rewrites and comes over as being a fresh and gutsy report back on life from Kazantzakis to the painter El Greco. It is, as you would expect, written in the first person but does not suffer the fate of sounding as if directed to a mass audience. The clever title, indicating a report to one person, gives the writer a vehicle in which he can write intimately, to an old friend. Kazantzakis has poured his heart, and the heart of Crete, into this book. We learn what has shaped this man in his childhood and youth (Kazantzakis would have said 'shaped and molded the clay that is man') from his earliest influences of "The Lives Of The Saints" through war and the hatred of Turks to the Catholic school on Naxos, their island retreat.
His lifetime spans from 1883, through the Cretan Revolt that started in 1897 and takes you through his education on Naxos before further education at Athens, his job as a journalist, his books and his travels. His search for religion and study of Buddhism based on his Greek Orthodox upbringing are mirrored in the same quest by the Englishman in Zorba The Greek. I have only been, briefly, to Heraklion, on Crete, once but have vowed to return and to find his tomb to pay homage.
Kazantzakis' father, Michael, returned from Naxos to fight for Crete and wrote back to his son, a 14 year old Nikos;-
"I'm doing my duty, fighting the turks. You fight too: stand your ground and don't let those Catholics put ideas into your head. They're dogs, just like the Turks. You're from Crete, don't forget. Your mind isn't your own, it belongs to Crete. Sharpen it as much as you can, so that one day you can use it to liberate Crete. Since you can't help with arms, why not with your mind? It too is a musket. Do you understand what I'm asking of you? Say yes! That's all for today, tomorrow and always. Do not disgrace me !"
We learn that, for instance, Nikos had a love of cherries, a love that he gave to Zorba in 'Zorba the Greek' for Zorba to eat until he was sick, never to want a cheerry again. Many influences, detailed in this book, have shaped and influenced his novels - this is a must read for anyone who has read any of Kazantzakis' novels and wants a deeper insight into what made the man tick. Some of the more passionate chapters, for me, come after his visit to Assisi, through Mount Athos, Jerusalem and to the desert at Sinai. Here I was much reminded of Carlo Carretto's In Search Of The Beyond where both authors seem to have had similar thought patterns about the spirituality of the desert.