Classic Author Focus: Nikos Kazantzakis

Nikos Kazantzakis

Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer who was born in Heraklion, Crete, when it was claimed by the Ottoman Empire. At the time, Crete was revolting against the Ottomans, so Kazantzakis’s parents had to flee with him for a while to the island of Naxos. Not much information is available about his younger years until he studied law at Athens University and later philosophy at the Sorbonne.

During the Balkan Wars, he fought as a volunteer in the Greek army and afterwards traveled extensively in Europe and Asia. He was more interested in philosophy than in writing novels, particularly in the philosophy of Nietzsche and Henri Bergson, who he studied under in France, as well as the philosophies of Christianity, Marxism, and Buddhism. He was an admirer of Vladimir Lenin and believed in socialism, although he was disillusioned by its actual practice.

He published his main work of philosophy, Ashitiki, in 1927 and then revised it for 13 years. In 1938, he published an epic poem, Odyssey: a Modern Sequel, but he became famous after he turned to fiction. However, he was a prolific writer of philosophy, plays, poetry, and travel books, and he also wrote significant translations of The Odyssey (several of them) and Dante’s Divine Comedy, among others. He is most well known for writing Zorba the Greek and the controversial The Last Temptation of Christ. He was a minister in the Greek government and worked for UNESCO. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in nine different years and received the International Peace Prize in 1956.

In 1957, even though he was suffering from leukemia, he took a trip to China and Japan. On the way home, he fell ill in Freiburg, Germany, and died.

Dates: 1883-1957

Most popular works: Zorba the Greek, The Last Temptation of Christ

Other works: The Greek Passion, Freedom or Death, At the Palaces of Knossos, Three Plays, Christopher Columbus, Frederic Nietzsche on the Philosophy of Right and the State, and many more

6 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Nikos Kazantzakis

  1. What a fascinating man. I knew he had written Zorba the Greek. I think I will have to look into his writings a little bit more in detail. Thank you for sharing so many interesting authors.

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