Nikos Kazantzakis


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Greek novelist, poet, and playwright.

Born in Herakleion, Crete, Kazantzakis grew up during a period of violent rebellions in Crete against the Ottoman government, an experience reflected in a vein of stark realism that runs through his work. His family moved to Naxos, where he went to a French school; he later studied law in Athens and philosophy at Paris, where he was influenced by the books of Nietzsche and especially by the works of Henri Bergson, under whom he studied. His own writings, though not adhering to any formal religion, are basically religious in emphasis and deeply concerned with metaphysical issues. Human existence is seen as essentially tragic but capable of being transformed into spiritual value. This theme informs Kazantzakis's most substantial work, Odusseia (1938; translated as The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, 1958), a philosophical epic poem extending to 24 books and 33 333 verses.

His international reputation is due largely to the success of his novels, though these account for only a part of his work, which covers a wide range of genres. In addition to his two best-known novels, Vios kai politeia tou Alexi Zorba (1946; translated as Zorba the Greek, 1952) and O Christos xanastavronetai (1948; translated as Christ Recrucified, or The Greek Passion, 1954), he wrote O teleftaios peirasmos (1955; translated as The Last Temptation of Christ, 1959) and O ftochoulis tou Theou (1956; translated as God's Pauper – St. Francis of Assisi, 1962). He wrote a number of plays in which the philosophical interest predominates. Melissa (1936), Kouros (1955), and Christophoros Kolomvos (1956) have been collected in English as Three Plays (1969). He made translations of Dante's Divine Comedy (1934) and Goethe's Faust (1937) as well as modern renderings of the Iliad (1955) and Odyssey (1965). An enthusiastic traveller, Kazantzakis published books on Britain, Spain, China, and Japan.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Literature.

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