Zorba the Greek Paperback – 23 Dec 1996
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Nikos Kazantzakis' Zorba the Greek is the original work of inspirational fiction, now joining the Faber Modern Classics list.
About the Author
Nikos Kazantzakis was born in 1883 in Herakleion on the island of Crete. During the Cretan revolt of 1897 his family was sent to the island of Naxos, where he attended the French School of the Holy Cross. From 1902 to 1906 he studied law at Athens University. He worked first as a journalist and throughout a long career wrote several plays, travel journals and translations. His remarkable travels began in 1907 and there were few countries in Europe or Asia that he didn't visit. He studied Buddhism in Vienna and later belonged to a group of radical intellectuals in Berlin, where he began his great epic The Odyssey, which he completed in 1938. He didn't start writing novels until he was almost 60 and completed his most famous work, Zorba the Greek, in 1946. Other novels include Freedom and Death (1953) and The Last Temptation (1954), which the Vatican placed on the Index. Return to Greco, an autobiographical novel, was published in 1961.Nikos Kazantzakis finally settled in Antibes with his second wife, and died there from leukaemia in October 1957. He is buried at Herakleion, where the epitaph on his tomb reads: 'I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free'. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Zorba meets the narrator, a young Greek intellectual, when the latter is about to leave for Crete to open a lignite mine; the narrator is instantly charmed by Zorba and employs him as a foreman. Once on the island they stay with Madame Hortense, a former beauty who seduced naval captains, and who soon also falls under Zorba's spell.
Much of the novel is centred on the conflicting views of the narrator - a Buddhist, a bookworm, a man of unfulfilled dreams - and Zorba, who has journeyed far and wide, has a zest for life, sees religion as a sham and views books as an inferior substitute for reality. For Zorba women are essentially weak creatures that need to be loved, and some will object to his chauvinism, but undeniably he also loves them in turn and sees an existence without them as futile. More than anything, Zorba's spell begins to work its magic on the reader, who starts to wonder: am I living my life fully? Why do we distract ourselves from pleasurable things? Is there anything to fear after death if we have lived our lives well? As Zorba himself says:
"I (Zorba) shall go to hell, not because I've robbed, killed or committed adultery, no. All that's nothing. But I shall go to hell because one night in Salonica a woman waited for me on her bed and I did not go to her."
A classic - like all great literature, it will change your perspective on what it means to live.
A colourful 60-something, Zorba is taken on to run the mine, and together the two enter a primitive world.
Zorba's attitudes, shaped by years of experience, are irreligious and very much of the 'seize the day' variety.
"I don't believe in anything or anyone,; only in Zorba. Not because Zorba is better than the others; not at all, not a little bit! He's a brute like the rest! But I believe in Zorba because he's the only being I have in my power, the only one I know. All the rest are ghosts... When I die, everything'll die."
Dancing, drinking, women and the music of his santuri are his interests; but he works hard, has grand plans, and discusses the meaning of life with his contained boss, who's working on a study of Buddhism, and whose continence exasperates Zorba. Zorba's actions sometimes seem kindly - his loving words to Madame Hortense - but it's all dissimulation to keep her sweet.
Some of Zorba's musings have a point. Some are seriously wrong - his cavalier attitude to God; his casual encounters with women. Nonetheless the relationship between the two men is well portrayed,, their final leave-taking moving.
Zorba is more clearly drawn than the narrator - despite an encounter with a woman, we strongly suspect the latter to be homosexual, his feelings for the absent Stavridaki consume him. I was baffled at his lack of apparent emotion when said woman is involved in a serious incident.
Life in early 20th century Crete is vividly brought to life: the festivals, the church, the people and the scenery, life, love and death.
This is an enjoyable work, very memorable characters, though you wont find a coherent answer to the meaning of life!
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I bought it to read on holiday, but soon gave up, to take it on again in cold, cold winter.Read more