"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Zorba the Greek

To King's College in The Strand to see a special showing of Michael Cacoyannis' 1963 film of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel Zorba the Greek. The evening was organised by the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King's which organises many free events about modern Greek subjects and the movie was preceded by the first showing of a videotaped interview with the director Michael Cacoyannis, who, it must be said, wasn't giving much away.

Kazantzakis' novel was written during the Nazi occupation of Greece, but set twenty years earlier, and was published in 1946. He intended the story of Alexis Zorbas to be on the model of the traditional saint's life or synaxarion in Greek but I wonder how saintly the character, played magnificently by Anthony Quinn, really was? The film remains very powerful, beautifully realising in black and white the old Cretan landscape and customs, some of which are rather hard to take, like the vendettas and the murder of the character pictured here. Played by Irene Pappas, her throat was cut by the vengeful peasants for the crime, it would appear, of being a beautiful widow who said no to a man with a knife and a moustache. The machismo of this film may now be as remote as the quaint tavernas and peasant costume it preserves (or one hopes it is) but the movie certainly repays seeing.

1 comment:

Andrew K said...

I suppose the saintliness is in terms of Zorba being a kind of ideal of the physical or somatotonic type, as opposed to the archetypal saintly figure who is normally, & perhaps necessarily, an introspective, cerebral figure- though who overcomes this inclination towards life of solitude for the sake of others.
Zorba is, in contrast to this, the healthy natural life in its fullness. The antithesis of the neurotic 20th century intellectual.