Zorba the Greek

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Zorba the Greek (orig. Βίος και Πολιτεία του Αλέξη Ζορμπά, literally meaning Life and Politics of Alexis Zorepa) is a novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis in 1946. It is considered to be Kazantzakis' most enduring and successful novel, having the ability to be thought-provoking and insightful, regardless of the era. In it a young Greek intellectual (replaced by an Englishman in the famous film), the narrator, is writing on a manuscript about the Buddha. He meets Alexis Zorba who greatly influences his outlook on life. The narrator, whose name is not revealed, hires Zorba to superintend the workmen in his lignite mine in Crete.

This novel was translated into English by Carl Wildman and published first by London, John Lehmann, 1952; New York, Simon and Schuster, 1953; Oxford, Bruno Cassirer, 1959; London & Boston: Faber and Faber, 1961 and New York: Ballantine Books, 1964. In 1964 a film under the same title based on this novel was published, directed and screenplayed by Michael Cacoyannis.


  • Live life and enjoy it!
  • Boss, everything's simple in the world. How many times must I tell you? So don't go and complicate things!
  • Tell me what you do with the food you eat, and I'll tell you what you are. Some turn their food into fat and manure, some into work and good humor, and others, I'm told, into God.
  • I'm sorting out my own brand of folly here in Candia
  • You want to build a monastery. That's it! Instead of monks you'd stick a few quill drivers like your honored self inside and they'd pass the time scribbing day and night. [...] Well, I'm going to ask you a favor, holy abbot: I want you to appoint me doorkeeper to your monastery so that I can do some smuggling and, now and then, let some very strange things through into the holy precincts: women, mandolins, demijohns of raki, roast sucking pigs ... All so that you don't fritter away your life with a lot of nonsense!
  • It's all because of doing things by halves, saying things by halves, that the world is in the mess is in today. Do things properly by God! One good knock for each nail and you'll win through! God hates a halfdevil ten times more than an archdevil!
  • What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, radishes, and out of him come sighs, laughter and dreams. Like a factory. I'm sure there's a sort of talking-film cinema in our heads.
  • `Alexis,' he said, `I'm going to tell you a secret. You're too small to understand now, but you'll understand when you are bigger. Listen, little one: neither the seven stories of heaven nor the seven stories of the earth are enough to contain God; but a man's heart can contain him. So be very careful, Alexis - and may my blessing go with you - never to wound a man's heart!'
  • What d'you lack? You're young, you have money, health, you're a good fellow, you lack nothing. Nothing, by thunder! Except just one thing - folly! And when that's missing, boss, well ...

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