‘Book Reviews’. Kostas Myrsiades. College Literature. Vol.8. No.2 (Spring 1981). Pp. 189-192
Nikos Kazantzakis, the 20th century Greek writer is known to have so many of his works translated into English since the Golden Age. He was a figure of controversy since his works are centered on the integration of Marxism and oriental philosophy. It was in 1952, with the publication of Zorba the Greek that Kazantzakis was first introduced to his country.
The paper argues that the works reviewed in this particular article hold the distinction of being the first full-length critical studies of Kazantzakis’s literary output.
Morton P. Levitt deals with each major work (Freedom of Death, The Greek Passion, The Last Temptation of Christ, Zorba the Greek, The Odyssey; A Modern Sequel, Saint Francis and The Fratricides), treating style, social overtones, philosophy, and mythic structure.
The paper also argues that B. T. McDonough’s Nietzsche and Kazantzakis, a comparative study, is less ambitious than Levitt’s work but remains a solidly written and clearly expressed comparison between Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, On the Genealogy of Mortals, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek.
James F. Lea’s Kazantzakis; The Politics of Salvation is a wide ranging study of Kazantzakis’ political and religious thought.
The shortest of these studies, The Spiritual Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis, is the most succinct introduction to Kazantzakis’ most important and most difficult work. Morton P. Levitt’s The Cretan Glance; The World and Art of Nikos Kazantzakis is one of the best study of the novels.
Levitt provides historical background to establish a context for the work being considered, summarizes the novel, interspersing biographical and critical observations, examines the main figure of the novel in terms of Christian metaphor, and discusses the novel’s mythic and metaphysical aspects as well as its contribution to Kazantzakis’ world view.
The acceptance of Zorba the Greek was reflected in the Whole Earth Catalogue (January 1971), a student periodical dedicated to brotherhood and peace, which reviewed the book as “the spiritual hand book of the future. In fact, our future may be within its pages.”
Levitt sees Kazantzakis’ Cretan Glance as the role played in his writing by the history and the events of Kazantzakis’ birthplace, the Mediterranean island of Crete.