Zorba the Greek by By Nikos Kazantzakis
December 15, 2015 | 9:11 PM
by Mohammed Shafeeqe

Zorba the Greek, the book by Nikos Kazantzakis, is a gleaming, brimming example of words as life-altering wisdom. Zorba the Greek is more than just a title. The eccentric, wily Mediterranean character who exists in a romanticised past, still flickers in our present day, and is demanded by some for a secure future in the human race.

Zorba the Greek follows a stuffy intellectual narrator and his conversations with a worldly man named Alexis Zorba. The novel is a tale of indomitable spirit, joy and zeal for life. Zorba is a wanderer, an adulterer, a drinker, a poet and a dancer — while all those qualities are endearing, that’s not why I admire Zorba. He is a man of the earth who understands life with all its ups and downs. He cuts through the usual ambitions and illusory trappings of successful life and gets down to the marrow. He embraces the whole of life, what he calls “the full catastrophe”.

Zorba is the epitome of a true man, intensely in love with life, and laughing at all hypocrisies and pretenses that shroud our inner light. He is fearlessly, absolutely human. As he lies dying, Zorba laughs, “And tell my friend that whatever I have done, I have no regrets. If some priest or other comes to take my confession...tell him to clear out quick, and leave me his curses instead. I have done heaps and heaps of things in my life, but I still did not do enough. Men like me ought to live a thousand years. Good night.”

Kazantzakis is best remembered in infamy, having been excommunicated for his novel The Last Temptation of Christ, which received a similar backlash during the Scorsese film adaptation. When he passed away from leukaemia in 1957, the Greek Orthodox Church refused to intern in his body. He was eventually buried outside the church in Heraklion, Crete, his home island.

How does one begin to understand Kazantzakis who lived what he wrote, his epitaph in Herakleion reading, “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

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