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Kazantzakis's "Odyssey": Literature or Baklava?
on September 30, 1997
This epic poem, much longer than Homer's original, was, for me, a very long read. Not because it's difficult, per se, but because Kazantzakis's language drips with honey--like baklava. I cannot read more than ten pages at a time because the writing (even in translation) is so incredibly rich...Kazantzakis describes the crescent moon as an ivory comb drawn through night's black hair. The reader needs time, again and again, to put the poem aside, to absorb and revel in what one has just read (and after four readings, the above remains as true as it did during the first reading). The "Odyssey" is sensual, passionate, hallucinatory and immensely/intensely spiritual, Kazantzakis's Odysseus so compelling that one is not startled when Death himself, while stalking Odysseus, falls asleep and dreams of being alive...dreams of being Odysseus. "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Zorba the Greek" notwithstanding, "The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel" is not only Kazantzakis's best work, it rivals the best of Joyce, Hemingway, Pynchon, and Cary; only Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet" is as rich in language and as lovingly written, but Durrell's masterpiece is fiction, of course, not poetry. Only Homer himself has composed a work so valid and so vivid--not only for his own time, but for all time to come.