Nikos Kazantzakis
(1883 - 1957)

 Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Megalokastro, Ottoman Empire, now Iráklion, Crete, as the son of Michael Kazantzakis, a farmer and dealer of in animal feed, and his wife, the former Maria Christodoulzki. Kazantzakis was raised among peasants and although Kazantzakis left Crete as a young man, he returned to his homeland constantly in his art. He attended the Franciscan School of the Holy Cross, Naxos, and the Gymnasium at Herakleion (1899-1902). Kazantzakis then studied four years at the University of Athens, becoming Doctor of Laws in 1906. From 1907 to 1909 he studied philosophy in Paris at the College de France under Henri Bergson. His first book, "OPHIS KAI KRINO", was published in 1906. In the same year appeared his play "XEMERONEI". During the Balkan Wars he fought as a volunteer in the Greek Army. In 1914 he met Angelos Sikelianos, with whom he travelled to Mount Athos and elsewhere in Greece. Kazantzakis spent many years in public service and in 1919 he was appointed director general at the Greek Ministry of Public Welfare. After the Wars he travelled to many European and Asian countries in 1918 - 1919 to Switzerland and Russia as a senior civil servant, assisting in the repatriation of Greeks from the Caucasus. 1922 - 1924 he lived in Vienna and Berlin. In 1924 returned to Greece and to Crete.  1925 - 1929 made three journeys to Russia. publishing travelogues from his trips (Spain, Egypt-Sina, China-Japan, What I saw in Russia, England etc.). In 1927 he published the book "ASKITIKI", the main work of his philosophy.1932 - 1933 Travelled to Spain for several months and in 1935 to China and Japan.  In 1936 he reported on the Spanish Civil War as a foreign correspondent for the "Kathimerini" newspaper. Between the 1910s and 1930s Kazantzákis also wrote dramas, verse and travel books, Kazantzakis's major work was the enormous poetic work "ODISSIA" (Odyssey: A Modern Sequel), 33 333 lines long, which he wrote seven times and published in 1938. In 1940 he was invited by the British Council to England, where he spent the first few months of World War Two. In 1940 he returned to Greece and lived on Aegina for the duration of the War and the German occupation. After the war he served as a minister in the Greek government of Aegina. In 1947-48 he worked for UNESCO. In 1948 he moved to Antibes, southern France. While continuing to write, he took a keen interest in the numerous translations and publications of his works around the world. In 28th of June 1956, in Vienna, he was awarded the International Peace Award. In 1957 he lost the Nobel Prize by a single vote to the French writer Albert Camus. In 1957 he travelled to China, where he got ill. Returns to Europe (Copenhagen) and is subsequently transferred to Freiburg University Hospital, where he died of leukemia on26th October 1957. Although Kazantzakis wrote a number of his novels in French, his most celebrated works were composed in the colloquial language of the Cretan working classes. His best-known novel, "Vios kai politeia tou Alexi Zorba (Zorba the Greek)", was made into a popular and highly successful movie (1964). The story focuses on the relationship of a writer and intellectual, modelled on Kazantzakis, and an uneducated man, Zorba, who drinks, works, loves and lives like a force of nature. His character has been seen as the personification of Henri Bergson's ideas of élan vital. He doesn't care about books, he values more experience and understanding than scholarly learning. The narrator meets Alexis Zorbas in Pireus. He plans to reopen on the island of Crete an abandoned mine and Zorbas becomes his foreman. Kazantzakis weaves the narrator's childhood memories and thoughts against the life and teaching of Zorbas. After a series of tragedies, failures and small victories, the narrator leaves Crete, but asks Zorba to teach him to dance. "How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea." (from Zorba the Greek) NIKOS KZANTZAKIS GRAVE (in 1957)
 
He became famous, however, during the last years of his life, when he turn to pezography. During that time he published, among others, Zorba the Greek (Vios kai politeia tou Alexi Zorba), The Last Temptation of Christ (O teleutaios peirasmos), Freedom and Death (O Kapetan Mihalis), The Greek Passion (O Hristos ksanastauronetai), and his autobiography Report to Greco (Anafora ston Greco). His book, The Last Temptation of Christ, was considered quite controversial when first published in 1955, and prompted angry reactions from both the Roman Catholic Church which banned it, and from the Greek Orthodox Church which excommunicated him! 

Body of Nikos was buried on one of the bastions of the Venetian fort surrounding Iraklion, Martinego.
In the Historical Museum of Crete there is a room devoted to Nikos Kazantzakis. His desk, library, some of his personal belongings as well as manuscripts of many of his works are displayed.

CHRONOLOGY OF MAJOR WORKS:

1927- Askitiki (or Salvatores Dei) A concise philosophical text, in which Kazantzakis expresses his metaphysical beliefs.
1927 - 1941 - Travels Several volumes of the author's reflections on travels in Spain, Italy, Sinai, Japan, England, Russia, Jerusalem and Cyprus.
1929 - 1938 - Odyssey An ambitious work divided into twenty-four "Rhapsodies" comprising a total of 33 333 lines of iambic decapentasyllable verse.
1938 - 1948 - A series of plays on themes from ancient and modern history: Prometheus, Capodistrias, Kouros (or Theseus), Nicephorus Phocas, Constantine Palaeologos, Christopher Columbus, Sodom and Gomorrah, Buddha, Melissa.
1946 - Zorba the Greek

1948 - Christ Recrucified
1950 - Freedom and Death 
1951 - The Last Temptation 
1953 - God's Pauper
1961 - Report to Greco
(published posthumously) 
Translasions:
1954 - Divine Commedy (Dante).

Links:

Historical Museum of  Crete - Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis Museum Myrtia, Iraklion, Crete