Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis

Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis

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  1. Just finished this 1940s book – “Zorba the Greek,” by Nikos Kazantzakis (inspiration for the famous 1960s film starring Anthony Quinn)

    If you can overlook the male chauvinism and paternalism of the time, you will find a wonderful exploration of the struggle between the instinctual and the rational, the gut and the mind, the visceral and the cerebral.

    Here are a few gems:

    “Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”

    “Free yourself from one passion to be dominated by another and nobler one. But is not that, too, a form of slavery? To sacrifice oneself to an idea, to a race, to God? Or does it mean that the higher the model the longer the longer the tether of our slavery? Then we can enjoy ourselves and frolic in a more spacious arena and die without having come to the end of the tether. Is that, then, what we call liberty?”

    “Tell me what you do with the food you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are. Some turn their food into fat and manure, some into work and good humor, and others, I’m told, into God. So there must be three sorts of men. I’m not one of the worst, boss, nor yet one of the best. I’m somewhere in between the two. What I eat I turn into work and good humor. That’s not too bad, after all!’
    He looked at me wickedly and started laughing.
    ‘As for you, boss,’ he said, ‘I think you do your level best to turn what you eat into God. But you can’t quite manage it, and that torments you. The same thing’s happening to you as happened to the crow.’
    ‘What happened to the crow, Zorba?’
    ‘Well, you see, he used to walk respectably, properly – well, like a crow. But one day he got it into his head to try and strut about like a pigeon. And from that time on the poor fellow couldn’t for the life of him recall his own way of walking. He was all mixed up, don’t you see? He just hobbled about.”

    “While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.”

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