Regarding Nikos Kazantzakis

January 28, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard. I started looking at Zorba the Greek again, and then thought it might be worth posting a little something about Nikos Kazantzakis.

First I’ll begin by showing you a picture of the original, real-life-Zorba here –
I guess I never knew that he was a real person, somebody that Kazantzakis knew….if you go to this site, you can learn more about the inspiration for the story, along with more photographs.
And as for the writer himself….

Nikos Kazantzakis
(1883 – 1957)


(I like imagining that because these photos came all the way from Greece, that’s why they are very small–it’s a digital approximation of worn and weary corners.)

One of the most important Greek writers, poets and philosophers of the 20th century, was born in Iraklion in 1883. In 1906 he graduated from the Athens Law School and continued his studies in Paris (1907-1909). During the Balkan Wars he fought as a volunteer in the Greek Army. After the Wars he travelled to many European and Asian countries, publishing travelogues from his trips (Spain, Egypt-Sina, China-Japan, What I saw in Russia, England etc.).  you can continue reading this biography by going here.

and there is another biography i found here.

images-2Also, Helen Kazantzakis, the wife of Nikos wrote a biography based on his letters that sounds pretty amazing. I’ve always been a fan of letters, and can only imagine that the filter provided by Romantic partner would create added interest. Anyway, you can learn more about the book, Nikos Kazantzakis: A Biography Based on His Letters by Helen Kazantzakis, (and other written by Greek writers), here.

or, if you’d rather, you can read more of his letters (like the one featured below)  here.

They think of me as a scholar, an intellectual, a pen-pusher.

And I am none of them.

When I write, my fingers

get covered not in ink, but in blood.

I think I am nothing more than this:

an undaunted soul.

and an excerpt, the rest of which can be read here.:

Sloshing through the moonlight, I climbed the twisting lanes until I reached the Piazza San Giorgio. It was Saturday night and a large crowd had gathered. There was singing and raucous shouting, mixed with the sound of mandolins and the intoxicating aroma of fried fish, jasmine, rose, and kebobs sizzling on the coals. My hunger increased beyond bounds.

“Hey, good Christians,” I called, approaching one of the groups of celebrants, “who in this renowned city of Assisi can give me alms? I just want to eat, sleep, and then leave in the morning.”

They looked me over from head to toe, and laughed.

“And who do you think you are, my beauty?” they answered, guffawing. “Come closer and let us admire you.”

“Maybe I’m Christ,” I said to frighten them. “Sometimes he appears on earth like this, like a beggar.”

“You had better not repeat that, not if you know what’s good for you, poor fellow,” one of them said. “We won’t have anyone spoiling our party. Quick now, move on! Otherwise we might rise up, every single one of us, and crucify you!”

They laughed again; but then one, the youngest of the group, felt sorry for me.

“Pietro Bernardone’s son Francis, old ‘Leaky Palms’: he’s the one who’ll give you alms. And you’re in luck. Yesterday he returned from Spoleto with his tail between his legs. Go and find him.”

At that point an ugly, gawky giant jumped forward. He had a mouselike face, a jaundiced complexion, and was called Sabbatino. We met again a few years later when he too became one of Francis’s disciples, and, barefooted, we journeyed together over the roads of the world. On this night, however, the sound of Francis’s name made him cackle maliciously.

“Why do you think he went to fight at Spoleto, all fitted out in his gold and plumes? It seems he wanted to do great deeds, have himself invested as a knight and then come back here to play cock of the walk. But the Almighty knows what’s what. He gave him a bang square on the head, and our proud rooster returned home with his feathers plucked.”

He jumped into the air, clapping his hands.

“We even made up a song about him,” he said with a chuckle. “Ready, lads—all together now!”

And suddenly they all began to clap their hands and sing at the top of their voices:

He went to Spoleto, la-la la-la
He went to Spoleto for wool,
He went to Spoleto, ta-ra, ta-ra
And got himself sheared to the full!

The sight of the wine and titbits made me feel faint. I leaned against a doorpost, gasping for breath.



One Response to “Regarding Nikos Kazantzakis”

  1. fche626 Says:

    Nice post 😀 Gotta love Kazantzakis 🙂

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