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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
2,610513,473 (3.92)1 / 129
  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 (45)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (51)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this one, the visceral departures from the now standard screen version were welcome. thats aid, I was left just short of satisifed and, now, it is awkward to articulate why. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Forget Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates in their smart suits - there's no-one even remotely Mexican or British in this novel. Although ... Alan Bates does have more than a whiff of D.H. Lawrence about him, and what with coal-mining, homosocial bonding, fights, sexually-charged scenery, cycle-of-the-seasons, and intellectuals trying to get in touch with their human side, this sometimes does feel like Women in Love with added citrus trees ...

The narrator is a young writer who, still smarting at being accused of being a mere bookworm by his best friend (who has gone off to do humanitarian work in the Caucasus), decides to take a break from intellectual life and have a go at "being a capitalist" in the real world by running a lignite mine he's inherited on the Cretan shore. As sidekick and adviser on practical matters, he recruits a working man he's picked up in a bar in Piraeus, the gloriously muscled and moustached Alexis Zorbas.

The two of them rapidly become close friends as they move into their hut on the beach and connect with the local Cretan villagers. The narrator enjoys Zorba's stories of his long and varied life, in the course of which he has formed his own eccentric moral system, based not on any arbitrary rules or conventions but on his unmediated experience of what gives pain or pleasure to himself and the people around him. And when he runs out of words, he picks up his santuri or starts to dance.

But the narrator is tortured by a growing appreciation of the sterility of his own book-learning. Fortunately, he doesn't just have to sit there and enjoy vicarious experience through Zorba - the two of them get involved with the cycle of village life, with the Cretan scenery, with the mine, with the monks up on top of the mountain, and with relationships with two local women. Or rather non-relationships: the real conversations in this book are always between men, whilst interactions between men and women are only ever about food or sex...

Lots of sunshine, olive and citrus trees, beaches, caiques, moustaches, passion, poverty, tragedy-of-war, evocations of Greek, Cretan, Ottoman and Slav culture and the glorious past, and lots of juxtaposition of complex, transcendental experiences of God with the prosaic, smelly detail of everyday Orthodox religious practice. Whatever else you might say about Kazantzakis - and there are a lot of good things you need to say about him - rather like Lawrence, he is not a writer you will ever catch out understating something. Whenever he gets the adjectives out, you need the subwoofer engaged and the dial turned to eleven. ( )
1 vote thorold | Jan 9, 2019 |
This book alternatively gave me a great sense of spiritual well-being and bitter sorrow. Camus, on accepting his Nobel Prize for Literature, said that Kazantzakis was more deserving. (He was half-right - both were).

Update: I am re-reading this book (or rather, re-listening to the audiobook narrated by the incomparable George Guidall), as of October 2017. This book is like a spiritual touchstone for me. Since I first read it over three years ago, I feel as though I have completed one full revolution - one cycle - through the spiral of life. Fitting, then, to come back to this and drink once again at the well of Kazantzakis’s thought. ( )
  vlodko62 | Dec 29, 2018 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (73 possible)

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