The Selected Letters of Nikos Kazantzakis

The Selected Letters of Nikos Kazantzakis

Edited and Translated by Peter Bien
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 960
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    The Selected Letters of Nikos Kazantzakis
    Book Description:

    The life of Nikos Kazantzakis--the author ofZorba the GreekandThe Last Temptation of Christ--was as colorful and eventful as his fiction. And nowhere is his life revealed more fully or surprisingly than in his letters. Edited and translated by Kazantzakis scholar Peter Bien, this is the most comprehensive selection of Kazantzakis's letters in any language.

    One of the most important Greek writers of the twentieth century, Kazantzakis (1883-1957) participated in or witnessed some of the most extraordinary events of his times, including both world wars and the Spanish and Greek civil wars. As a foreign correspondent, an official in several Greek governments, and a political and artistic exile, he led a relentlessly nomadic existence, living in France, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Soviet Union, and England. He visited the Versailles Peace Conference, attended the tenth-anniversary celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution, interviewed Mussolini and Franco, and briefly served as a Greek cabinet minister--all the while producing a stream of novels, poems, plays, travel writing, autobiography, and translations. The letters collected here touch on almost every aspect of Kazantzakis's rich and tumultuous life, and show the genius of a man who was deeply attuned to the artistic, intellectual, and political events of his times.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4012-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction (pp. ix-xvi)
    Peter Bien

    Two remarkable literary renaissances occurred roughly in the first half of the twentieth century at the two edges of Europe: Ireland and Greece. Ireland, with a population then of fewer than four million, produced Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, Wilde, and Shaw; Greece, with a population then of fewer than eleven million (compare Ohio, with just over eleven million), produced Cavafy, Palamas, Seferis, Elytis, Kazantzakis, and Ritsos, plus a dozen other remarkable writers of both poetry and prose. Our focus in this volume is on Kazantzakis; yet it is important to remember that he was part of a generalized literary revival and...

  4. Chronology (pp. xvii-xxviii)

    1883. Kazantzakis is born on 18/30 February in Iraklio, Crete, then still part of the Ottoman Empire. The family of his father, Mihalis, a dealer in agricultural products and wine, was from the nearby village formerly called Varvari, currently Myrtia, now the site of the Kazantzakis Museum. Much later, Mihalis is to become one of the models for Kapetan Mihalis, the hero of the novel calledO Καπετάν Μιχάληςin Greek andFreedom or Deathin English.

    1889. Cretan rebels attempt without success to win the island’s freedom from the Turks. The Kazantzakis family flees to mainland Greece for six months.


    • I. At Law School in Athens (pp. 1-36)

      Athens, 21 September 1902

      My dear revered father,

      I arrived here just yesterday and sent you a postcard in order to announce to you that I arrived here excellently; I really never had a better journey—I didn’t get seasick, nor was I cold. My only sorrow (though great) was that I was going far away from you, far away from paternal and maternal love. I am now very sad because of this, since I am not near you.

      A quite sufficient consolation amid my sadness is that the family with whom I’m staying pleases me exceedingly. Their consideration is...

    • II. Pursuing Graduate Studies in Paris (pp. 37-45)

      [Paris, October 1907]

      Dear mother, Anestasia and Eleni,

      Paris still hasn’t let me return to normal. I go up and down all day long without stopping and continually see new things. Above all, it’s lovely for someone to notice how the women work here. You see women directing and serving in all the sweet shops, cafés, hotels, groceries—in all the stores. Others—female greengrocers—sell fruit from carts they drag along. Still others sell newspapers. All of them work day and night to earn their living. It’s not like home where you are forever spending your time sitting and...

    • III. Politically Active in Greece (pp. 46-83)

      Iraklio (Crete), 10 June 1909

      Mr. Palamas,

      I would like to tell you in the simplest, briefest, strongest possible words about the loud cheer of joy from all of us youthful people of Crete whom you greeted so impetuously in your article published two days ago.

      In addition, I would like even more to tell you, on behalf of our society, about the intractable yet at the same time reflective impetus felt by all of us here regarding the sacred Struggle to emancipate Greeks from their slavery to pedants.

      All the ignoramuses and nonentities have lashed out against us; consequently,...

    • IV. Fleeing Greece; Resident in Austria, Germany, Italy (pp. 84-205)

      Belgrade, Wednesday [4 May 1922 (O.S.)/17 May 1922 (N.S.)]

      I arrived in Belgrade last evening, and I’m leaving today. Tomorrow evening I’ll be in Vienna.

      The Serbian springtime was extremely beautiful from the train: rivers filled with water lilies and yellow irises, forests with blossoming acacias. I don’t think I will ever forget those acacias. Women dressed in heavy dark red aprons followed their husbands, who were plowing, while the women sowed seeds in the furrows. Large oxen with long horns; quiet, slow-moving rivers; thousands of pigs swimming in the swamps with their swineherds. A girl with bulky cheek bones...

    • V. Meets Eleni Samiou; Begins Odyssey; Divorces Galatea; Travels to Soviet Union (pp. 206-271)

      Iraklio, 7 July 1924

      The second Odysseas has returned to his fatherland, has seen the enormous mountainous head above the city where he was born, has traversed the age-old road along the shore, and once again knocked on the door of his paternal home. The courtyard was filled with basil, marjoram, geranium. Old “Laertes” had aged. The mother—fine, peaceful, reticent—observed her much-traveled son: how thin he had become, how his temples had sunk, how his eyes had sunk, how his forehead had broadened and blackened from so much snow and broiling sunshine!

      And the second Odysseas (your companion,...

    • VI. Resident Almost Eighteen Months in the Soviet Union (pp. 272-348)

      Athens, 20 October 1927

      Dear Lenotschka,

      I’m leaving this afternoon via Odessa. The weather is calm, I’ll have a splendid journey. You are with me every moment, and the Papaïoannous came yesterday and told me that René told them that you’d put on weight but that recently you had another small attack. Marika is going to leave for Berlin, and I told her to come with me as far as Marseilles and from there to stop at Lausanne and then go on to Berlin. Let’s see. I’ll be here at the end of November, and I’ll depart in December, to...

    • VII. Trying to Make a Career Outside of Greece, Especially in Spain (pp. 349-459)

      Gottesgab, 28 May 1929

      Dear brother,

      I received your letter of 23 May but not the other one, sent to Berlin. Thus, I don’t know your plans that you wrote me about in that one or how your letters got lost in Russia.

      I’m staying here willingly because I’m writing the book on Russia in French. I’ll have it translated into German, and I hope that it will be accepted by the publisher who is expecting the manuscript. It’s a sort of novel:Moscou a crié. Seven people, seven consciousnesses, set out to go to Russia. I’m writing how each...

    • VIII. Back in Greece, Having Failed Elsewhere; Traveling in Far East; Odyssey Completed and Published; Visit to England (pp. 460-536)

      Aegina, May 1933

      Dear Mr. Hourmouzios,

      I’m sending you eight articles on Spain as installment no. 1. I have made every possible linguistic concession and beg you (if you publish the articles under my byline) not to change anything. I see thatProïais publishing articles by Vlachoyannis in unadulterated demotic. If this annoys you, then either do not publish the articles at all or add a statement saying that this is my language, for whichKathimerinirequests forgiveness from its readers.

      That is my first request. The second is this: that you send me proofs to correct, since I...

    • IX. Confined to Aegina during the German Occupation; Writes Zorba and Many Plays; Begins to Translate Homer’s Iliad (pp. 537-599)

      Aegina, Thursday, 15 May [1941]

      Dear Lenotschka!

      Last night I encountered Mrs. Persaki by chance and learned for the first time about Rounis’s accident. I felt terribly sad, because I am well aware of all the horror. Thus, I realized at last why you have remained so long in Athens, which exhausted and embittered me so much. After the failure of the three goals—(1) a job, (2) learning English, (3) Kardamyli—I was unable to understand why you continued to live away from your home. Never have I felt so tired because of your delay.

      I fervently beg of you, come here onMonday...

    • X. In Athens during Round Two of the Civil War; Resolves to Help Liberated Greece via Political Action; Briefly a Cabinet Minister; Marries Eleni Samiou (pp. 600-614)

      [Athens, December 1944]

      Dear Brother,

      It’s impossible to convey in writing all that is happening. One of these days I’ll come to see you so that we may speak together. I, too, am experiencing the pain of our entire race, but I hope that the tragedy—its first act—will stop in a few days.

      I have no fear as long as you are well.


      N. Kazantzakis

      the tragedy—its first act: The Greek communists attempted to occupy Athens in December 1944, constituting what is called “the second round” of the Greek civil war (the “first round” had taken...

    • XI. Final Exile: Resides Briefly in England, Then in France; Writes Final Novels and Plays; Travels to China (pp. 615-852)

      London, Hotel St. James Court,

      Buckingham Gate, Minster House,

      Room number 296

      9 June 1946

      Dear Lenotschka!

      I arrived last night. It was raining, no one at the station, millions of visitors in London for the holidays, impossible to find a hotel. I clutched my baggage in the darkness and cursed the hour I had left Aegina. Finally I went up to a policeman and explained my situation to him. He took me along. The telephone calls began. He was drunk but dignified; his hand trembled and he got the numbers wrong on the telephone. We went to a post...

  6. References Cited (pp. 853-858)
  7. Index (pp. 859-876)


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