THE LIFE AND POLITY OF ALEXIS ZORBA
“ZORBA THE GREEK”
Zorba the Greek is the single most translated and traveled hero of any Greek novel. Its adaptation was awarded with three Oscars and numerous other awards and the masterful music and the syrtaki dance still resonates in the hears of everyone who has heard it.
Anthony Quinn, the Mexican man whom everyone thought was Greek after embodying the quintessential Zorba in Zorba the Greek, told this story to my father, Patroclos Stavrou: “One night, in the late 1970’s, as he was crossing the notorious at the time New York Central Park, he heard footsteps behind him, followed by the sudden thrust of a gun barrel against his back. “Don’t move!” an angry voice commanded. Quinn froze at first, but swiftly recovering from the initial shock, slowly began to turn his head and faced the mugger. “Mr. Zorba! I’m so sorry!” muttered the mortified man and ran off”. Anthony Quinn told the story in peals of laughter, adding that this was the crowning moment of his career.
Nikos Kazantzakis began writing Zorba on the island of Aegina, in August 1941, during the Nazi occupation of Greece, a period of starvation and despair. On those darkest days Nikos penned his most joyous work: Zorba the Greek.
For Kazantzakis, writing Zorba was deliverance. One might say he wrote it with his arms stretched wide open, surrendered to the open sea in front of the little stone beach house he shared with his beloved life companion Eleni. In this novel Kazantzakis portrays Zorba as a dancer, a reveler, a womanizer, a man of the earth.
It makes for a smooth and effortless reading experience; from the heart of it, however, emanates a profound philosophical idea, the embodiment of the vitalistic philosophy, fortified and expressed through the strong-willed reclaiming of the pleasures of life (dancing, love, drinking) while proclaiming full dominance over Life and Death.