History & Culture

On This Day February 18, 1883, Nikos Kazantzakis was born

by GreeksConnect Team



Nikos Kazantzakis was Greece’s most prolific writer and remains in history as one of the most famous contemporary Greeks worldwide, whilst one of the most controversial literary figures of the 20th century. Born on February 18, 1883, while Crete was still under Turkish rule, Kazantzakis has left us with dozens of great books, published dozens of novels, poems, plays and short stories and his works have been translated into practically every written language on the planet. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in nine different years.

Zorbas The Greek, a “Trademark” for Greece around the world

Zorba the Greek, originally called “The Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas” (1941) is one of his most famous novels and talks about his real-life friend Yorgis Zorbas, who taught him how to love life and not fear death. The novel was turned into a film in 1964 with Antony Quinn, directed by Michael Cacoyiannis and accompanied by the movie soundtrack by Mikis Theodorakis (the well-known "Zorba's Dance")bperception of Greeks and their mentality to the rest of the world.


A Controversial Literary Figure 

“The Last Temptation of Christ” was one of the most controversial books of all time, often appearing on “banned books” lists and even receiving official condemnation from both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. In 1954, the Pope placed Kazantzakis’ book on the Roman Catholic Index of Forbidden Books. In response, Kazantzakis telegraphed the Vatican a phrase from Christian apologist Tertullian: “Ad tuum, Domine, tribunal appello” (I lodge my appeal at your tribunal, Lord), basically telling the Catholic church that God will be his final judge and not a “worldly” institution such as the church.The incident prompted one 1950s writer to remark that it was the first time since 1054 that the two churches had agreed on anything.

 

Controversy followed more than three decades later when Martin Scorsese made the book into a film in 1988. Widespread protest from Christian fundamentalists in the United States spread. The film was banned in more than a dozen nations around the world, including Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the Philippines and Singapore, however Martin Scorsese was nominated for Best Director by the Academy.


The Biographical film about his life 

“Kazantzakis”, a film based on Kazantzakis autobiographical novel “Report to Greco”, deals with the fascinating personality of Kazantzakis, the Greek landscape that molded him, his philosophical and metaphysic quests. Through his existential search around the world for the implementation of the ideas of Christ, Buddha and Lenin in real life, and through his hero Odysseus, Kazantzakis realizes his philosophy of the Cretan Glance: "Life is a bumpy road and one must walk it with dignity and bravery.". The life of Nikos Kazantzakis is a story of love, faith and strength of one author who survived the adversities and cruelties of his time, making his life's work live through the ages. Directed by the renowned Greek film director Iannis Smaragdis, and released in November 2017 the film was also presented in an event titled “The Greek Light through Nikos Kazantzakis” at the Hellenic Centre of London, on May, 22, 2017, while it was supported by the Embassy of Greece in London.

 

Did you know?

- The Museum Nikos Kazantzakis in Myrtia Heraklion opened on June 27, 1983 by the culture minister Melina Mercouri

- At a 1999 auction, a first edition (1946) signed copy of “Zorba the Greek” was sold for £4,250, the first time in 35 years that a copy of the original Greek first edition had surfaced.

- In 1957, Kazantzakis lost the Nobel Prize for Literature to Albert Camus by one vote. Camus later said that Kazantzakis deserved the honor “a hundred times more” than himself.

- Kazantzakis’ literary work was condemned by many in the Greek Orthodox Church and a movement was undertaken to excommunicate him that reached Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who rejected the proposal. Kazantzakis issued the following response to the clergy and bishops who sought to excommunicate him:

“You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I.”

NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS

- Although Kazantzakis was never excommunicated, he remained a controversial figure for his spiritual and political views. The Orthodox Church ruled out his burial in a cemetery and thus he was buried inside the rampart walls surrounding Heraklion, Crete, the place of his birth. Kazantzakis’ epitaph has become one of the most famous phrases in Greek history. Etched in stone, it reads: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

GreeksConnect Team

We are a team of Greek professionals who love London and have chosen to make it our home. A city with a great vibe that never ceases to surprise you; exhibitions, theatres, restaurants, nightlife, parks, and much more! Yet, keeping connected to Greece and the Greek community in London is something that you need and want while living in London


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