- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Touchstone; 3rd ed. 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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 179 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Zorba the Greek Paperback – December 20, 1996
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek
About the Author
Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Crete in 1883. He studied literature and art in Germany and Italy, philosophy under Henri Bergson in Paris and received his law degree from the University of Athens. The Greek Minster of Education in 1945, Kazantzakis was also a dramatist, translator, poet, and travel writer. Among his most famous works are, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Saviors of God. He died in October 1957.
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I approached this book from two wildly uninformed angles. The first was from either having seen, or believed I had seen, the Anthony Quinn version of Zorba the Greek in the 1960s movie. A swarthy, swashbuckling Mediterranean was what I remembered. In high school I struggled through another Nikos Kazantzakis novel but remembered it as “great literature”.
No matter how I came to it, Zorba is a wonderful, wonderful read with a story and characters which etch themselves into your soul. The narrator sets out on a journey to resurrect a mine on the island of Crete. Early on he picks up a companion- the older and far more experienced Zorba - to help run the mine. Sancho Panza step aside (check the reference).
Zorba invades the narrator’s physical and psychological space. In their first meeting Zorba suggests he can work at anything - after all he has arms, legs and a head. Oh, and he can also smell minerals in the earth. And, a good thing since the narrator is headed to Crete to hire a crew to mine lignite.
Zorba disrupts the narrator’s obsession with books. The spoken word, not just the written word, allow the writer/narrator to develop. Zorba’s lusts - food, work, sex - are as contagious as they can possibly be. The narrator doesn’t transform to become Zorba, he adapts to become a better, fuller version of himself.
Kazantzakis provides plot, characters, and Buddhist ruminations. Indeed, Zorba the Greek was written when existentialism was in full bloom. (The author came in second by one vote in Nobel Prize voting to Albert Camus in 1957). Most existential writing is anxious, verging on desperation and ennui. Zorba the Greek is life - some triumphs, more tragedies with a constant movement forward. Change happens.
That's the narrator and reader's introduction to Zorba. Words of brash honesty that define Zorba. A sixty year old wiith the enthusiasm and eyes of a child. He is not full of life, he is life itself, a dynamo full of contradictions, gulping in every breath. In the narrator's words "A living heart, a large voracious mouth, a great brute soul, not yet severed from the earth."
Every experience and every day is lived as new by Zorba. Drinking wine, Zorba suddenly asks "--whatever is this red water--. You drink the red juice and lo and behold your soul grows too big for your carcass, it challanges god to a fight."
Zorba lives on after the book is finished, shaming hesitant half steps, as he strides through the mind.