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Nikos Kazantzakis and Alexis Zorbas

Nikos Kazantzakis and Alexis Zorbas

Nikos Kazantzakis (Heraklion Crete 1883 - Freiburg Germany 1957) was a Greek writer, journalist, politician, poet and philosopher with rich work of writing. He is one of the most important modern Greek writers and the most translated worldwide. His work has been translated and published in 50 countries and adapted for the theatre, the radio, the film industry and the television.

Kazantzakis' first novel, Zorba The Greek was published in 1946. The novelistic Alexis Zorbas was a real person who met Kazantzakis on Mount Athos and they became friends and later collaborated on a mining venture. Zorbas was a simple man who was engaged in the discovery and exploitation of mines. The mining venture failed but Zorbas was used as raw material for the novel.

Their friendship was deep and true. Zorbas said, ``Boss, I have never loved a man like you.'' And Kazantzakis wrote' If I wanted to distinguish which people left the deepest marks on my soul, perhaps I would pick Homer, Buddha, Nietzsche, Bergson and Zorba. Zorbas taught me to love life and not to fear death. If, in my life, I had to choose a spiritual guide, a guru as the Indians say, or an old monk on Mount Athos, I would definitely choose Zorba.'

In the book, the action was moved to Crete, where the author, the boss, and Zorbas, the foreman, were trying to set up a lignite mine. The first one was a young man, a man of education and a thinker seeking experiences, and the latter, an old man, full of animal drive, driven only by his instinct and emotions, without any inhibitions. He was a primitive man who accepted and absorbed life. The author was impressed by his unconventional character which was an inexhaustible treasure of experiences.

In 1954, Zorbas won the prize for the best foreign novel in France, and in 2002 it was included in the Guardian's list of the 100 best books of all time.

The book was adapted for the big screen in 1964 starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates and Irene Papa. The music included in the film was written by Mikis Theodorakis and is known worldwide as Sirtaki. In the minds of many foreigners, this music identifies Greece. The last, well-known, scene, in which the two leading actors dance, was filmed on Stavros beach in Akrotiri, Chania.

(more articles about Crete on www.gomega.gr)