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Zorba the Greek Paperback – December 23, 2014
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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.
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Although Zorba the Greek is the title of the book; the novel is in first person by a narrator, who influenced by Buddhism (what I would call the narrator's misreading of Buddhism) wishes to live an ascetic, pure life as a worker in lignite mine, free from worldly desires. The narrator wants to start a commune-like society. However, the narrator meets Zorba, who says that making love with women, for all the pains the pursuit of women and love causes, is "the key to paradise." Now it might be easy to think that Zorba is a misogynist swine who uses women for simple pleasure. And perhaps "Zorba the Greek" does appeal to men more than it might to a woman; but I'd look at the whole Zorba's character, an uneducated genius whose philosophy (in my opinion) is a more complete version of Nietzsche's. Zorba is not a philosophy; he is a philosophy as a body in a man. The narrator slowly becomes enchanted by Zorba's zest for life. Zorba is noble and suffering and exalting in his joy. The narrator begins to realize he has wasted his life, searching for a purity he may never achieve, as wishes to study in "the school of Zorba." He had never been brazen enough to fall in love, to dance or to risk happiness.
I don't dispute Holden Caulfield in Salinger's novel to be a unreliable narrator, but Holden did say something very insightful about the reading great books, that after reading a wonderful book one wants to call up the author and be their friend. Actually, when I read "Zorba the Greek" I did not want to call up Nikos Kazantzakis; I wanted to be Zorba's friend for life, and not because the author is dead, but I have never read a play, poem or novel with the depth of character in Zorba.
Life is beautiful.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think you might also like the movie with Alan Bates and Anthony Quinn......