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Monday, July 15 – Saturday, July 20
Enjoy some good summer reading.
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“Their life is an unceasing battle with God, with the winds, with the snow, with death. For this reason the Castellians were not surprised when the killing began, brother against brother. They were not afraid; they did not change their way of life. But what had been simmering slowly within them, mute and unrevealed, now burst out, insolent and free. The primeval passion of man to kill poured from within them. Each had a neighbor, or a friend, or a brother, whom he had hated for years, without reason, often without realizing it. The hatred simmered there, unable to find an outlet. And now, suddenly, they were given rifles and hand grenades; noble flags waved above their heads. The clergy, the army, the press urged them on — to kill their neighbor, their friend, their brother. Only in this manner, they shouted to them, can faith and country be saved! Murder, that most ancient need of man, took on a high mystic meaning. And the chase began — brother hunting brother.”
To the rest of the world, the brilliant Greek writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis is best known for his masterpiece, Zorba the Greek. But to the Greeks, he remains a national treasure. His body of writing is a clear attestation of the deep love he felt for his country and his people. This passion, along with his devotion to his faith, and a profound fascination with the magnetic power of charismatic leadership ― all come into play in his final curtain call, The Fratricides.
The Fratricides (the act of a person killing his or her brother), was Kazantzakis’ last novel. The story takes place in a remote mountainside village (Castellos) in Macedonia, during the Greek Civil War (December 1944 – January 1945, and from 1946-49) when Greek communists tried (unsuccessfully) to gain control of Greece. The novel’s central figure, the village priest (Father Yiannaros), tries to reconcile the two warring factions ― the monarchist troops who are in control of the town and the communist guerrillas who are trying to infiltrate the area. Although sympathetic to some aspects of the communists’ vision of society, he is repelled by their acts of savagery. Their inhumanity goes against his moral and religious beliefs, yet Father Yiannaros takes steps to negotiate a settlement, with tragic results. Enough said.
Told by a master storyteller, The Fratricides is a gripping account of a turbulent time in Greek history, when brothers were (figuratively and literally) pitted against brothers.
Other novels by Nikos Kazantzakis:
- Report to Greco (published posthumously, in 1961)
- Saint Francis – in the UK, known as “God’s Pauper: St Francis of Assisi” (1956)
- The Last Temptation of Christ (1951) *
- Captain Michalis – in the UK, known as “Freedom and Death” (1950)
- The Greek Passion – in the UK, known as “Christ Recrucified” (1948)
- Zorba the Greek (1946) **
- Alexander the Great <for children> (1940)
- The Rock Garden (1936)
- Toda Raba (1929)
- Symposium (1922)
- At the Palaces of Knossos <for children> (?1918)
- Serpent and Lily (1906)
* adapted into a film (1988) by the same name; directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Willem Dafoe (as Jesus), Harvey Keitel (as Judas) and Barbara Hershey (as Mary Magdalene).
** adapted into a film (1964) by the same name; directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis and starring Anthony Quinn (as Alexis Zorba) and Alan Bates (as Basil)
In addition, he wrote a vast body of work: plays, poetry, and a wide selection of non-fiction works (travel books, translations, anthologies, memoirs, essays and letters).
My favorite Nikos Kazantzakis quote:
“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”