jesse freeman

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Zorba the Greek (1946)


Zorba the Greek is a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Often held as his magnum opus, it certainly remains his most remembered. I do prefer the two others that I have read, in Christ Recrucified and Freedom and Death for reasons I will get into. I do plan to read The Last Temptation next. 

Cynically, I could say this novel did come off as a protracted male crush on behalf of the narrator, so for this to work the character of Zorba has to be an original one, and he is to an extent. I had come to love his novels because of his character`s strengths always come through their actions from Manakolis spiritual awakening and selflessness in Christ Recrucifed or Captain Michalis in Freedom or Death, and for what few words they did say they both eventually died for. However, Zorba the Greek is a bit different . There were no powerful incidents in this novel, instead conversations and everyday actions form to define Zorba. I must say I prefer that of the earlier characters to the latter, yet Zorba is special. Completely uneducated he becomes to our learned and highly philosophical narrator a source of wisdom, a wisdom stemming from the experience of life. It is with that that I will end this write up with quotes from Zorba in the novel.

“No I don’t believe in anything. How many times must I tell you that? I don’t believe in anything or anyone; only in Zorba. Not because Zorba is better than the others; not at all, not a little bit! He’s a brute like the rest! But I believe in Zorba because he’s the only thing i have in my power, the only one i know. All the rest are ghosts.  I see with these eyes, i hear with these ears, i digest with these guts. All the rest are ghosts I tell you. When I die, everything’ll die. The whole Zorbatic world will go to the bottom.

“It’s all because doing things in halves…saying things in halves, being good by halves, that the world is in the mess its in today. Do things properly by God! One good knock for each nail and you’ll win through!God hates a half devil ten times more than an arch devil…”


Yet another constant for Kazantzakis is his truth toward religion. He depicts Christians honestly, or really I could say honest Christians, though that too would be cynical. I think if any Christian was honest in their faith they would see the truths of these novels. Take for instance the passage below. Isn’t this objectively honest?

“Meanwhile, the dying woman was fumbling frantically beneath her pillow. As soon as she thought she was in danger she had taken out of her trunk a crucifix in gleaming white bone and thrust it under her pillow. For years she had entirely forgotten it and had lain among her tattered chemises and bits of velvet and rags at the bottom of her trunk. As if Christ were a medicine to be taken only when gravely ill and of no use so long as you can have a good time, eat, drink and make love.”

07/05/12 at 2:47am