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Home / Impressions / Great Cretan Personalities / Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis

Born in Heraklio in 1883, poet, author and philosopher Níkos Kazantzákis became Greece’s highly controversial, foremost figure in 20th century Greek literature.

After his graduation from the Faculty of Law of Athens University in 1906, he continued his studies in Paris until 1909. Travelling all over the world, his travel writings were considered masterpieces from the moment they were edited.

Kazantzákis, much more a philosopher than a writer, was deeply influenced by writings of Nietzsche and Bergson and by the philosophies behind Marxism, Christianity and Buddhism. In his work he tried to harmonize these different views through a very strong, clear language, always conscious of the cultural heritage of his homeland Crete.

In 1927 he published his main philosophical essay "Askitikí" and in 1938, after revising it constantly for 13 years, he published the epic poem "Odyssey", a modern sequel of Homer’s "Ulysses", in which Kazantzákis picks up the story where Homer left off. This immense poetical work counts 33,333 verses. International fame came with the novels he wrote later in life.

Although Kazantzákis’ novels are realistic, rich in images and full of life, his heroes are everyday people, who are consumed by the crucial questions of existence. In the "Life and Manners of Alexis Zorbas" (1946), Zorbas represents in an unequalled manner high values like freedom and humanity. Kazantzákis' novel "Last Temptation of Christ" (1951) was considered so controversial that it was banned by the Roman Catholic Church, while the Greek-Orthodox Church tried to excommunicate him.

Níkos Kazantzákis died in 1957 on one of his travels in Germany. Despite resistance from the Orthodox Church, he was given a religious funeral and was buried in Heraklio at the Martinégo Bastion on the old city walls. He was as much admired by many as he was criticized by others. Today his work not only offers the pleasure of reading, but deals with matters that are still relevant to our society.