Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A-Z Wednesday

Reading at the Beach is hosting A-Z Wednesday where bloggers take the time to highlight one book that starts with the letter of the day. This week is the letter Z or Zed as our British friends say.

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis is the very last book in my collection if go alpahbetically by title. I read it too many years ago now to admit to, long before I knew it was a classic of any sort. I just stumbled across it in a used bookstore, read the description and handed over my $2 for it. Did I enjoy it? I can't honestly remember although the fact that it is still on my shelf almost 30 years late argues that I did.

Amazon offers the bland and rather unappealing:

The unnamed narrator is a scholarly, introspective writer who opens a coal mine on the fertile island of Crete. He is gradually drawn out of his ascetic shell by an elderly employee named Zorba, an ebullient man who revels in the social pleasures of eating, drinking, and dancing. The narrator's reentry into a life of experience is completed when his newfound lover, the village widow, is ritually murdered by a jealous mob.

A customer offers a more compelling reason to read this:

Zorba is a man who has lived fully. He has been a soldier, a miner, an itinerant musician... He is a man who knows all the tricks and has travelled the world; he has taken advantage of others and has also loved; in his sixties he says to be driven by an inner Zorba who claims to be thirty and, often, behaves as if he were fifteen ... This huge character is offered a job as foreman in a mine, and the story focuses on this episode of his life and on his relationship with his employer, a timid, intellectual young man who has only lived, vicariously, through books and whose world view is shaken by Zorba's stories and way of life. In this book the exuberant Zorba, is contrasted with the mystical, restrained narrator, a dreamer with no practical skills who is looking for a direction in his life. The mine is located in Crete, and the place were they live is depicted as very traditional, hard, and brutal. There are many disturbing scenes, such as the killing of a young woman because she has rejected the advances of a suitor, or the plundering of a house by the people of the village which begins when its owner is agonizing. Occasionally, there are also scenes that show the joy of life and which celebrate pleasure and happiness. Zorba the Greek is a complex book, like its main character, which contains many objectionable ideas and attitudes, but which is full of life and a very Dionysian joy.

Maybe it's time to revisit this one myself and see.


  1. Hah - Zorba the Greek used to be the name of a restaurant I liked in Nashville. I didn't realize it was named after a book!

  2. We have several restaurants named after Zorba the Greek around my town, I'm sure the book is much better. Thanks for posting.

  3. I've never heard of this book but it has me curious.

    Thanks for playing this week!

  4. My mom made me read this book before I went to Greece; she loved it and thought it epitomized the beauty of the country. I was about 18; I remember thinking it was OK and finding Zorba a bit annoying.

    What a jaded youth I was!


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