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133 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonder and tragedy: our short and beautiful time on earth
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...
Published on April 9, 2000 by Deborah

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Translation Trouble
Really, this is a wonderful novel. The only reason why I give it three stars is that the translation is awful. Clearly the translator either cannot appreciate the wonderful langauge of the author, or he has no appreciation for the possbilities of English prose, or both. A new translation is sorely needed for this title.
Published on January 18, 2002 by Maesto Librarian


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133 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonder and tragedy: our short and beautiful time on earth, April 9, 2000
By 
Deborah (Minneapolis, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (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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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Exploration Of Life, November 22, 2001
By 
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (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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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story for All Seasons, April 17, 2004
By 
Michail Kyril (Redmond, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (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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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic self discovery novel, June 2, 2001
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (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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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy and beauty: our short time on earth, April 9, 2000
By 
Stephen W. Smith (Minneapolis, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (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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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Against moral accountability, January 10, 2004
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (Paperback)
Although this is a review to the book it is also a response to the review of besario. Kazanzakis as I mentioned in my review to "Report to Greco" spend all his life trying to understand the role of humans on this earth and our struggle with spirituality. Zorbas comes in as a character that is the complete opposite to the character of Kazantzakis in "Report to Greco". He is the portrayal of a man that is morally accountable to no-one but himself. This is along the lines of existentialism (as in "Caligula" by Albert Camus). It is up to the reader to understand what Kazantzakis wants to convey in this book, but the reader must be familiar with the author and also to have the ability to think beyond the surface. Our behavior depends on whether we believe that at the end we will have to account for our actions or just disappear. This is a choice that centers on idividual humans as we are the sole judges. We can either follow Kazantzakis' character in "Report to Greco" or his character in "Zorba the Greek" or just a happy medium. Zorba the Greek is not a celebration of the Greek spirit and it is not how the majority of Greeks are. The books is not meant to be a travel guide to Greece but rather an outline of human behavior when it has no moral boundaries. This book is not light reading, as you have to be the judge of Zorbas' actions and it is for an audience that is capable of higher level thought.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Experience Life!, January 2, 2007
By 
C. J. Hardman (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (Paperback)
I truely enjoyed reading Kazantzakis' "Zorba the Greek".

Our reserved Narrator (I don't recall the author ever naming him, so I'm using the capitol "N"--Zorba simply calles him "boss") meets the lanky Alexis Zorba in a Piraeus cafe, and being charmed by his wit, spirit, and the honesty of his emotion, hires him on as his foreman in a coal mining venture. The fact that Zorba can play the santuri and knows stories and songs for the journey doesn't hurt, either!

On Crete, we meet the inhabitants of a traditional village, from the cafe proprieter and patrons to the aged yet still attractive matron of the local "house of ill-repute". The characters are uniquely portrayed, the scenery vivid. I almost felt I was standing among them as I read. There is no hiding of emotion here, whether jelousy, fear, or exhuberant joy.

Zorba rejected self-denial long ago, and of all the characters here, seems to be the most accepting and least judgemental of any. He takes joy in becoming the lover of Dame Hortense, a retired prostitute of respectible years. He is protective of the miners he supervises, and sets a good example. And when a jealous mob of villagers gathers to run down and murder the defenseless village Widow, it is Zorba alone who stand up for her. For all his flippant and off-handed comments about women, the truth is that Alexis Zorba recognizes women's needs as he recognizes his own, and treats the women he has known--and those he hasn't--with respect. Zorba is mischevious but true, comforting and counseling a mad monk who has dreamed of turning his Hypocritical monastary into an inferno as a cleansing act. There are so many things happening here!

Zorba has thrown off the manufactured constraints of society and bends to them only when he wishes to. He is true to his heart, and a true friend and brother to the Narrator. Through observing and experiencing Zorba, the Narrator learns to experience life, not just watch it from the outside. He abandons the Buddhist wheel of self-denial under which he had pinned himself. These men remain brothers of sorts, in the end separated by miles and borders, but not by heart and spirit. One of my favorite passages, spoken by Zorba after the Narrator asks him about being accountable to God for his life reads thus:

" 'God enjoys himself, kills, commits injustice, makes love, works, likes impossible things, just the same as I do. He eats when he pleases; takes the woman he chooses. If you see a lovely woman going by, as fresh as clear water, your heart leaps at the sight. Suddenly the ground opens and she disappears. Where does she go? If she's a good woman, they say: 'The devil's carried her off.' But, boss, I've said so before and I say it again, God and the devil are one and the same thing!' " (page 263)

I came to re-appreciate the simple joys of everyday life in reading this book. Zorba is an active participant in life, not simply as our Narrator seems to be at the beginning, a passive observer. If you enjoy living literature, I would strongly recommend this book to you.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A man of many demons, April 2, 2005
By 
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (Paperback)
Alexis Zorba is the kind of guy you always hope to meet at some time in your life--an ebullient, enterprising, inventive, indefatigable man who has a million stories to tell and is willing to go anywhere and do anything, but with the wisdom and discretion that come with age. In Nikos Kazantzakis's "Zorba the Greek," he becomes the close friend of the nameless narrator, who is lucky enough to make his acquaintance and hires him to be a foreman in his lignite mine in Crete. Zorba is in his sixties but still spry, lean, and tall, a jack-of-all-trades who has traveled extensively throughout the Balkans and western Asia, and an indulgent lover of wine, women, and song. He works hard and he plays hard, if you'll pardon the cliche.

As the narrator (whom Zorba simply calls "boss") and Zorba develop a working relationship as the mine becomes operational with the aid of Zorba's organizational and managerial skills, the notion emerges that the two men are complementary halves of the same personality. The narrator is a book-learned and deeply spiritual man devoted to both Dante and Buddha; the former representing his contemplation of death and the afterlife, the latter his efforts to relinquish his sexual and material lusts in his discontentment with the earthly life. Zorba, on the other hand, irreligious and lacking formal education, learns solely from his experiences and his adventures and believes in living as though as every minute were his last, not that he is reckless or self-destructive or mindlessly hedonistic. The narrator is concerned with the metaphysical whereas Zorba is immersed only in the pleasures of the physical world.

Although much about Zorba's character is defined by private pains in his past, he functions primarily as a social animal who leaves a strong impression on just about everyone he meets. He plays at seducing an elderly French lady named Dame Hortense, a former cabaret singer whose legendary beauty has been ravaged by time and who is sadly deluded into thinking he plans to marry her. An unsavory incident at a corrupt monastery exposes him as the craftiest of opportunists, yet he displays heroism when he tries to protect a dishonored widow from being murdered by outraged villagers. Far from the geriatric stereotype of being set in his ways, he is as many different kinds of men as he wants or needs to be as the situation requires. "I think I must have five or six demons inside me!" he excitedly tells his boss, who agrees that we all do.

This very nicely written novel abounds with rhetoric about the Meaning of Life, which Zorba and the narrator presume to discuss without knowing the answers, but language and metaphor are more important here than the ontological content. The narrator is constantly seeing signs of God and symbols of life in the delicacy and mutability of nature, from butterflies to birds to flowers to the color of the sea; Zorba has taught him to learn by observing the world around him in addition to just reading the words of others. So uniquely spirited and inspiriting is this book that it would sing and dance like Zorba if it could.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life worth living, December 27, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (Paperback)
Zorba is a wonderful teacher. His lessons revolve around the appreciation of all things basic and good, the pleasures of simplicity, and falling in love with life. Great book to read if you feel that your life is in a rut and you want to reconnect with the world around you.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The deepest valleys and highest peaks of man's soul..., June 29, 2002
By 
This review is from: Zorba the Greek (Paperback)
I pick up this book every now and then and reread some of my favorite parts...it's like being with old friends. It is so immersive that by the end, Zorba and his boss feel like they are your best friends, and then suddenly and cruelly, they are ripped away from you. I never reread the last chapter...it's too agonizingly painful.
Zorba and his boss tell some earthshattering tales throughout the book. My favorites include:
1) The state Jesus found Zeus in when he usurped the throne of God.
2) Zorba's grandfather's tale of how God created woman(Eve) after the Devil snatched Adam's rib from his hand.
3) Zorba's explanation of why he loves to hear Madame Hortense's parrot scream the name "Canavarro!"
4) Zorba's tale of his assassination of a Bulgar priest who killed Greeks at night and came back at dawn to conduct morning mass.
5) The monk's tale of the chapel named, "Our Lady of Revenge"
6) The boss's story of how he tried to help a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon
These are just a few gems...there are countless more in this sacred work of literature. Make no mistake...this is a book for free men(that love and lust after women)...for men who haven't been embalmed by this or that belief. If you are a staunch feminist,christian,jew,hindu,buddhist, taoist, shintoist, muslim,atheist,nihilist,capitalist, socialist, communist,or nationalist you will be offended. But if you are a free man who loves(and hates) women, this book will be sacred to you.
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Zorba the Greek
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis (Paperback - December 20, 1996)
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