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Zorba the Greek Paperback – December 20, 1996

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Editorial Reviews


Novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, published in Greek in 1946 as Vios kai politia tou Alexi Zormpa. The unnamed narrator is a scholarly, introspective writer who opens a coal mine on the fertile island of Crete. He is gradually drawn out of his ascetic shell by an elderly employee named Zorba, an ebullient man who revels in the social pleasures of eating, drinking, and dancing. The narrator's reentry into a life of experience is completed when his newfound lover, the village widow, is ritually murdered by a jealous mob. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 3rd edition (December 20, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684825546
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684825540
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Deborah on April 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
In approximately 1914, before World War I, the narrator, a young cerebral writer who wants to become rooted in the earth and physical labor, rents a lignite mine on the beautiful island of Crete. As he is about to depart, he meets a much older, experienced, and very earthy Alexis Zorba, whom he hires to be his foreman and cook. What he learns, and we through him, may change your life. First, a warning: to appreciate this amazing book, one must be able to look past the misogyny and sexism of life on Crete in 1914, and focus on the love and relationship of two men. Zorba plays the santuri, has had a family and many lovers, has fought in the Balkan Wars, has lived and loved-his knowledge is rooted in love, suffering, sweat, and blood. He is a simple but deep man who lives life without shame, bares himself, has no guile or guise, and lives every moment fully--not only his joy, but his tears, his compassion, his anger, his hunger, his thoughts and his questions. His character is perceptively portrayed by the first person narrator who is a contemplative who gradually comes to see the poverty of a life always filtered through philosophical, religious, or cultural judgments. He immediately appreciates Zorba's wonder at life, Zorba's music and dance, and the way Zorba sees the same old things every day as if new. Zorba is life itself, a fleeting moment with a discrete beginning and final end. The narrator especially learns that by holding on to his safety and security he has sacrificed much by failing to live to the fullest like Zorba. The book is absolutely beautifully written, makes you cry at the beauty and wonder of being alive, makes you ache for loved ones who are gone, and cry at our ultimate fate, death, in the face of which we must live with ever more Zorba-like zest.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Majid Alaraimi on November 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read the Arabic translation of this book, and I love it. I don't want to recite the novel here but rather would like to share what I grasped from it. It's a true exploration of life in multiple perspectives, through Zorba, the narrator, and the other characters. Regardless of the fact whether they are right or wrong but rather how they perceive, experienced, and live life, and the peace they feel with themselves due to their understanding in the domain of their thinking. For example the monk who shared his views of life and was waiting to know how the narrator feels about them. I believe that Kazantzaki wants the reader to draw his own conclusions about the meaning of life not through the actions and believes of Zorba alone but rather through a spectrum of beliefs. I felt that clearly in chapter 20 when Zorba himself explained that he have more to learn of life. Whenever he get lost clearing things up in his mind he mumbles, then he erases and start seeing things again for the first time. Zorba like any regular person lives in contradictions, and the writer clearly doesn't want to portray him as a perfect human. The reader of this book should try to go beyond the little things and get to the wisdom. A truly great book that explores the answers to the big questions of "What life really is?" "How you want to live it?"
The writing of Kazantzaki is spectacular, breathtaking, and truly marvelous. This a true master piece that philosophically teaches us to live life to the fullest by thinking simply, observing timelessly and dancing to the tones of nature endlessly.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Michail Kyril on April 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
The classic movie starring Anthony Quinn was based upon this book.

As the story goes, Alexis Zorba is an old Greek workman who accompanies the narrator, a bookish philosopher, to Crete to exploit a mine he owns there. Zorba is a figure created on a huge scale: his years have not dimmed the flame by which he lives, the gusto with which he responds to all that life offers him, whether he is organizing the work at the mine, coping with mad monks in a mountain monastery, embellishing the endless tale of his past adventures, or making love to Dame Hortense.

Nikos Kazantzakis is one of the most distinguished and individual of modern Greek writers, and in Zorba the Greek he has written a book that lives by a vitality and rhythm that seems to owe little or nothing to the contemporary traditions of the Western novel. It is bursting with wit, fantasy, and enjoyment of life, and at the same time has a continual undertone of serious philosophical reflection. Zorba the Greek is Rabelaisian, a Don Quixote in which the role of the knight and Sancho Panza are reversed, plus a distinct Arabian Nights touch.

About the Author
Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Crete in 1885. He studied at the University of Athens where he received his Doctor of Laws degree, later in Paris under the philosopher Henri Bergson, and completed his studies in literature and art during four other years spent in Germany and Italy. Also author of The Last Temptation of Christ and Saint Francis, not to mention one of the best spiritual autobiographies I have ever read, Report to Greco.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert Mishou on June 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This novel should be looked at in two ways. First, as a masterful charcter sketch of an aging man who refuses to let time get the better of him. Zorba is a complex character who, frankly, is not always in the right. Initially he appears as the macho, almost stereotypical male. He is a womanizer (widows only) who does not think women are capable of any complex thought or understanding what is means to be a man. Despite this, Zorba is unable to destroy the fragile emotions of a local widow and becomes engaged to her. He feigns disinterest when she later dies, but is privately disconsolate. Zorba was a good soldier who now has developed a disdain for killing and defends the weak. He voices his distrust of organized religion, yet thanks God when fortunate things happen. Kazantzakis, like Thomas Hardy in his later novels, does not allow the reader to completely like or understand a character - they are dynamic and constantly revealing new traits.
Second, this is a novel of self discovery and developing inner strength. Through the living side-by-side with Zorba, the narrator discovers that he has, in essence, wasted his life - he has not yet lived. By changing his views and adopting Zorba's philospohy of living for the experiences of life, the narrator is forced to admit he is wrong and has been wrong for many years. He learns the life is meant to be lived, not idled away. People learn by experiencing things, one is not able to life vicariously through superficial possessions or relationships. We must live optimistically and look forward to the future.
This is an excellent novel that has a sensual, lyric translation. Kazantzakis weaves his philopshical beliefs seamlessly into his narrative -". . . it is a mortal sin to violate the great loves of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm."
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