Beginning with Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greek Pantheon, and continuing down to the present day, Crete has given birth to a long line of greats. Nikos Kazantzkis, creator of the legendary Zorba the Greek, is one of them.
Born in 1884 in Heraklion, Kazantzakis grew up in the years when Turkey held sway in Crete. It was a time marked by intense revolutionary fever against the Ottoman oppressor, as well as fierce pride in all things Cretan.
Kazanzakis left Heraklion to study in Athens and then in Paris. As a student he developed an interest in philosophy, classical literature, religion and politics. Later, the works of Nietsche and Bergson would profoundly influence his writing. Christ, Buddha, Ulysses and Lenin were also great sources of inspiration in his work.
When he finished his studies Kazantzakis travelled widely and began to write. He was a prolific writer and his works included poetry, plays, travel impressions and translations of Goethe, Dante and Homer. It was his novels, however, that were to bring him world fame.
The most celebrated of Kazantzakis’ novels is Zorba the Greek. Zorba depicts life in Crete as it was in the early 20th century and through its title character, it shows the indomitable spirit, passion for life and grass-roots wisdom of the Cretan people of that time. A 1960s film, starring Anthony Quin, brought Zorba to the world, along with beautiful Greek music and a sane, simple message for a world growing rapidly crazier and more complex
Other novels by Nikos Kazantzakis include; The Last Temptation of Christ, El Greco, Captain Michaelis and The Greek Passion