Nikos Kazantzakis

Nikos Kazantzakis

Was a Greek writer, celebrated for his novels which include “Zorba the Greek” (published 1946 as Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas), “Christ Recrucified” (1948), “Captain Michalis” (1950, translated “Freedom or Death”), and “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1955). He also wrote plays, travel books, memoirs and philosophical essays such as “The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises”.

The Cretan rebellion against the Turks determined the Kazantzakis family to seek refuge for two years, between 1897 and 1899, on the Aegean island of Naxos. The young Nikos followed for two years the courses of the French college from the island, led by Franciscan monks. He learned French and Italian and became familiar with the Western civilization through reading. Once returned to his native island, he continued his studies at the gymnasium of Heraklion. Later, he studied law in Athens.

In 1906, he made his debut in the world of letters with the essay “Illness age”, published in the “Pinakothiki” journal under the pseudonym of Karma Nirvami. Under the same pseudonym, he published the same year his first volume: “Snake and Lily,” a large novel of 95 pages, with influences from D’Annunzio. During 1907, he signed under the pseudonym of Akritas, many chronicles in the Athenian daily, “Akropolis”. Because of his material situation, always precarious, he had to win his living by writing, like other contemporary writers (Grigorios Xenopoulos, Kostis Palamas). He has collaborated over the years with numerous publications of the time, the result being a huge work, gathered in one part of travel impressions volumes, and in another one, still remaining in the newspapers. His play, “Dawn”, winner of a dramatic contest, was staged at the Athineon theatre in the capital. Author of impressive dramatic works, he wrote in verse and in rhythm prose, tragedies with antique, Byzantine and different other themes. Kazantzakis will remain in the history of drama, but not of the theater, through his strictly literary amount of pieces he composed. They were more readable than playable (as confirmed by the failure of the performances of his plays). On 1 October 1907, he arrived in Paris, where he devoted himself to Law studies up until 1909. At Collège de France, he attended the lectures of Henri Bergson, whose deep philosophical concepts will profoundly mark his work and life.

Between the months of March and April of 1909, Nikos will make his first trip to Italy where he will return many times. In 1910, he will establish himself at Athens, where he will publish the tragedy “The Master Builder”, the processing of a popular legend where Nietzsche’s influences are intertwined with his personal experiences. Awarded at a dramatic contest, his work will be staged in 1916. Kazantzakis ensured his livelihood by translating philosophic and scientific books for the Athenian publisher “Fexi”. A year later, in 1911, he married Galatia Alexiou in Heraklion. Poet, novelist and playwright, Galatia Kazantzakis (1881-1962) will occupy an important place in the Greek literary life. The 16 years of marriage between the two intellectuals, having opposing natures and characters, will be for Kazantzakis one of the most troubled periods of his life. In 1926, the marriage will fail in a divorce. In the novel “Men and Supermen” (1957), her masterpiece, Galatia will portray the plight of coexistence with Nikos.

In 1946, The Society of Greek Writers recommended that Kazantzakis and Angelos Sikelianos be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1957, he lost the Prize to Albert Camus by one vote. Camus later said that Kazantzakis deserved the honour “a hundred times more” than himself. In total, Kazantzakis was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in nine different years. Late in 1957, even though he was suffering from leukemia, he set out on one last trip to China and Japan. Falling ill upon his return flight, he was transferred to Freiburg, West Germany, where he died. He was buried on the wall surrounding the city of Heraklion, near the Chania Gate, because the Orthodox Church ruled out his being buried in a cemetery. His epitaph reads “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” (Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα. Δε φοβούμαι τίποτα. Είμαι λέφτερος.)

For one year (1916-1917), Nikos together with Georgios Zorbas, will try to put in motion the exploitation of lignite mines in Prastova, in southern Peloponnesus. Georgios Zorbas (1870-1941), a native of Chalkidiki, a man of the people with simple manners, an idealist without pair, who met Kazantzakis at Mount Athos, managed to lure the Cretan writer in this adventure that will become after more than three decades the core of the Kazantzakis’ book, “Zorba the Greek”. There were kept some letters “full of picturesque” addressed by Zorbas to his former business associate. Besides “Zorba the Greek”, he wrote other reference novels such as: “Christ Recrucified”, “Report to Greco”, “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “The Fratricides”.

Other personalities

Discover some other popular persons who live / lived in Greece.

Homerguide

Homer

He was believed by the ancient Greeks to have been the first and greatest of the epic poets. Author of the first known literature of Europe, he is central to the Western canon. The 9th century AD seems to be roughly the period in which the greatest Greek epic poet, the father of European literature, […]

Hippocrates

Hippocrates

Also known as Hippocrates II, was a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (Classical Greece), and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is referred to as the “Father of Western Medicine” in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic […]

El Greco

El Greco

The nickname “El Greco” refers both to his Greek origin and Spanish citizenship. The artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος (Doménikos Theotokópoulos), often adding the word Κρής (Krēs, “Cretan”). There aren’t so many information on the painter’s years of youth. But in a notarial deed, dated […]

Aristotle Hayez

Aristotle

Was a Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Halkidiki, on the northern periphery of Classical Greece. His father, Nicomachus, died when Aristotle was a child, whereafter Proxenus of Atarneus became his guardian. At eighteen, he joined Plato’s Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven. His writings cover […]

Archimedes

Archimedes

Was an Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Generally considered the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time, Archimedes anticipated modern calculus and analysis by applying concepts of […]

Alexander the Great

Alexander The Great

Was one of the first great strategists and military leader in history. He was king of the Ancient Kingdom of Macedon between 336-323 BC and his conquests made the Macedonians rule over a large empire stretching from Greece to Egypt into northwest India and modern-day Pakistan. He was undefeated in battle, thing which made him […]

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close