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Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
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Zorba the Greek (1946)

by Nikos Kazantzakis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,524483,467 (3.92)1 / 123
  1. 10
    The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis (Booksloth)
  2. 00
    The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins by James Angelos (Artymedon)
    Artymedon: This literary fiction about a man who has become the quintessential Greek, Zorba, gives its title to the journalistic account of the present Greek economic crisis written by Greek American James Angelos.
  3. 00
    A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oë (piroclasto)
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English (42)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
I am not sure exactly what I expected from this novel, although certainly images of Anthony Quinn darted through my mind. I was disappointed. Reading this felt like reading a very, very pale version of Fernando Pessoa's wonderful writing which was abundantly rich with wisdom to live by. Oh well, win some, lose some! ( )
  hemlokgang | Jun 25, 2018 |
“The human soul is heavy, clumsy, held in the mud of the flesh. Its perceptions are still coarse and brutish. It can divine nothing clearly, nothing with certainty. If it could have guessed, how different this separation would have been.”

I’m sure I lost something by reading this in English. Well, at least Wikipedia tells me so, and I’m only too willing to agree. Demotic Greek versus Katharevousa? The head fairly spins for, yes, it is all Greek to me. Or: Είναι όλα ελληνικά για μένα. See what I mean? Like when I’d found out after reading 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘛𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘊𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵 that Greek had become fluid enough to co-opt nouns as adjectives, and you’d know from which region of Greece it had come from by the suffix. (If memory serves me right, the translator had said Kazantzakis used the specific name of a tree to describe the color of the sky and it was impossible to faithfully render into English.) Ιησούς Χριστός!

And like its original language, I’m sure the original culture from which this novel had sprung can be just as easily lost on a modern reader. Or an American reader. This monolingual American, to be more precise. However, this work did seem awfully sexist—women in the kitchen or bedroom; men in the mines or chugging demijohns of raki at a prostitute’s. Men are allowed to dance and flourish and spit in the eye of God, contemplating their place in this world—the aftermath of explosive being or an afterworld of perfect harmony with a humming, eternal present. Women can cook the bread and sesame sweets and ensure that the male line continues its exploitation. And if you fail the order, the expected norm, you can get your head quite literally cut off. Talk about spinning heads!

Yes, I’m oversimplifying. There surely is much more going on here. Philosophical questions and religious conundrums. But I can’t help feeling the arguments as cheap and watered-down rum against the blood of women spilling on Cretan sand, never having been asked their opinion.

I know it’s about life with a character who’s bigger than life in a world that’s unfailingly tainted by the brutality and force of past generations. I think Zorba could’ve been bigger, actually. He certainly outshone the narrator. But what does it all add up to? If it were merely emblematic of an age, OK . . . I guess. It still seems like weak raki to me. For all its moments of fire and whisking knives and collapsing tunnels, I would’ve preferred less braggadocio and more bravery.

But what the fuck do I know? I don’t speak Greek.

“Man’s heart is a ditch full of blood. The loved ones who have died throw themselves down on the bank of this ditch to drink the blood and so come to life again; the dearer they are to you, the more of your blood they drink.” ( )
  ToddSherman | Nov 28, 2017 |
"I think of God as being exactly like me. Only bigger, stronger, crazier."
By sally tarbox on 9 July 2017
Format: Audible Audio Edition
The narrator of this story is an introverted, bookish chap;his close friend has just left to fight for the Greeks suffering in the Caucasus, leaving the narrator traumatized. Shaken by his friend's parting criticism of him as a bookworm, he determines to embrace real life and, while waiting to sail from Piraeus to Crete, where he plans to run a mine, he encounters Alexis Zorba.
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! ( )
  starbox | Jul 8, 2017 |
One of my favorite all-time books. Kazantzakis words are to be savored. ( )
  CindaMac | Mar 26, 2017 |
After reading the reviews here, I prefer keeping my fond memories of Zorba to rereading the story and being angry about Kazantzakis' view of women, which I think I thought did not include me. Zorba is larger than life and important issues are discussed and reading the book was an exhilarating journey. ( )
  raizel | Mar 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (74 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nikos Kazantzakisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ceretti Borsini, OlgaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gauthier, YvonneTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wildman, CarlTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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I first met him in Piraeus.
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"Weiß ich´s Chef? Das ist mir so eingefallen. Wie du so in der Ecke hocktest, ganz für dich, über das kleine Buch mit Goldschnitt gebeugt - da dachte ich mir unwillkürlich: "Der ißt gern Suppen." Es fiel mir so ein. Hör auf es ergründen zu wollen!"
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Book description
Zorba the Greek is the story of a Greek workman who accompanies the narrator to Crete to work a lignite mine and becomes the narrator's greatest friend and inspiration. Zorba has been acclaimed as one of the truly memorable creations of literature - a character in the great tradition of Sinbad the sailor, Falstaff, and Sancho Panza. He is a figure created on a huge scale. His years have not dimmed the gusto with which he responds to all that life offers him, whether he's supervising laborers at a mine, confronting mad monks in a mountain monastery, embellishing the tales of his past adventures, or making love. Zorba's life is rich with all the joys and sorrows that living brings, and this is one of the great life-affirming novels of our time.
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Portrait of a modern hero whose capacity to live each moment to its fullest is revealed in a series of adventures in Crete.

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