Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzkis (And some finished challenges)

Posted 27 November, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook / 20 Comments

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Title: Zorba the Greek
Author: Nikos Kazantzkis
Date Finished: Nov 26, 2008 #67
Published: 1946 Pages: 311
Rating: 2.5/5

First of all, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope everyone is well and stuffed to the brim with delicious food.

Zorba the Greek is another one of those books that has been lurking on the shelf for years and years. I’ll be glad to move it to the “read” bookshelf!

Zorba the Greek is about a man on his way to Crete to start a lignite mine. Along his way, he encounters a curious and aging man, Zorba, whom he befriends and hires as his foreman. Zorba and the narrator couldn’t be more different from one another. The narrator is a scholarly bookworm who buries his nose in such works as Dante’s Divine Comedy and is writing a book about Buddah (or maybe that is just the title?). Zorba, on the other hand, is full of life and zest and chastises the narrator for writing and reading about life but not living it. The two characters, in their adventures, learn a lot from one another, and in the end the narrator decides he will continue nosing around in books but will do so with vigor and purpose.

Bottom line? I felt like I was reading the surface of the book the entire time. The language (although this is translated, so not sure how to “review” that) is at times gorgeous, but I never really understood what was going on in the book and what the purpose was. Eeeks! Zorba, while an endearing character difficult not to like, spouts off so much philosophical crud that I was often lost and confused. I guess I just didn’t get it. And I had a tough time finding anything about the book online-even the wikipedia entry is short and incomplete. I could definitely use another reading of this book, but not next year–and probably not the year after that either.

A taste of the reading:
“The aim of man and matter is to create joy, according to Zorba–others would say “to create spirit,” but that comes to the same thing on another plane. But why? With what objects? And when the body dissolves, does anything at all remain of what we have called the soul? Or does nothing remain, and does our unquenchable desire for immortality spring, not from the fact that we are immortal, but from the fact that during the short span of our life we are in the service of something immortal?” (272).

My head hurts. :P But, finishing this book allows me to cross of two challenges! Yippee!!! Below are my lists. I usually provide links, but I’m really really hungry (because I dropped my hot lunch on the floor today at work), and I don’t think anyone actually links from here, so…that’s that.

ORBIS TERRANUM CHALLENGE COMPLETE – 9 books, 9 countries–Thanks Bethany!!
Zorba the Greek – Greece
*Half of a Yellow Sun – Nigeria
Swiss Family Robinson – Switzerland
**The God of Small Things – India
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Ireland
Anne Frank Remembered – Netherlands
*The Robber Bride – Canada
A Long Way Gone – Sierra Leone
The Translator – Darfur (Sudan)

Wraping it up for Bethany:
1.) What did you like about the challenge? I loved getting to “visit” so many different countries and “experience” so many different cultures.
2.) What would you like to see change for next year? I like Corinne’s idea about having a “database” where we can search for reviews by country for new ideas.
3.) About the rules, or the non-existent rules…did you like that? Yup!! I like rules. :P
4.) Are you going to join us next year? Definitely!
5.) Pretty please give me any suggestions for changes, the betterment of the challenge, or just anything that you would like to see changed for next year. See above about database. Also, an easy link for the Mister Linky would be great, too. Until I finally bookmarked it, I had to do a lot of searching to find it.
6.) Would you like the challenge to be more involved? What if we read books together sometimes? Would that interest you? I like the idea of group books, but unfortunately my schedule doesn’t always allow for it. Boo!
7.) would you be interested in helping somehow next year? How would you like to help? I’d love to help with anything! Just let me know. :)

TBR CHALLENGE COMPLETE – sitting on my shelf for an embarrassing amount of time (Thanks MizB)
Zorba the Greek
Emma
Mother of Pearl
A Map of the World
A Rumor of War
The Left Hand of Darkness
*The Robber Bride
*Tender at the Bone
Angela’s Ashes
*Snow Crash
All the King’s Men

* denotes favorites although most of them were great reads! So hard to define a favorite anyway when they are all soooooo different!

20 Responses to “Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzkis (And some finished challenges)”

  1. Congrats on finishing two challenges!. The exerpt from the book is quite the thought inspiring question huh? Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Hi Trish,

    I liked the movie version of “Zorba the Greek” when I was a kid, but I saw it again last year and thought it was outrageous crap (lots of stereotypes, simplistic but supposedly profound “philosophy,” etc.). I thought the book might be worth reading anyway, but your review makes me wonder. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving from another OT Challenger and kudos for the nice blog you have here!

  3. cj

    Trish –

    Congrats on the challenges! I’m proud of you for sticking with them.

    My desire to stick with mine has vanished… but there are a couple I’m still trying to complete. Who knows if I’ll make it or not.

    I hope you have a great turkey day!

    cjh

  4. I’m so glad you reviewed this book, because I have a copy on my TBR shelf and I’m wondering if I’ll ever read it now. I tried once, got through two chapters and felt like I had no clue what was going on. It’s not encouraging to hear that the entire book is like that. And that quote doesn’t sound like stuff I enjoy reading (or can make sense of) either.

  5. *Michelle – There were a few moments in the book of “hmmmm…interesting” but a whole lot of “huh? what?” :) Do you have any plans for today?

    *R-Lo – On the web I found a lot more information about the movie than the book–made me kind of want to watch it, but I think I’ll skip it. How you describe the movie is kind of how I would describe the book. Thanks for coming by!

    *Veens – You’re not missing anything by skipping this one. :) Have a great day!!

    *CJ – Happy Thanksgiving to you, also! I think I’m going to take it slow with the challenges next year. At the beginning of the year they are fun, but by the end a chore…

    *Jeane – I bought this book because of a class I was taking my soph year of college, but I ended up switching classes because of my schedule. Kind of wish I had read it in a class setting–maybe would have gotten more out of it. I can’t make sense out of most of the book either–I don’t like it when reading a book makes me feel stupid, and this one accomplished that.

    *CB – I hope you have better luck with Zorba than I did!! and i would be really interested to hear what you think about the book. I hope you have a great thanksgiving also!!

  6. First, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your hubby-hope you have a wonderful day.

    Second, congrats on finishing those challenges. You rock!

    Now to Zorba, I’ve heard of it but it doesn’t sound like something I would want to read. If I can’t understand what the book is about or it’s point I have such a hard time continuing to read. Kudos to you for finishing it!

  7. Hmm, this sounds a bit too philosophical for me. Congratulations on finishing the challenges, Trish! And though we don’t have it here, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving :)

  8. Happy Thanksgiving and congrats on finishing the 2 challenges!

    I thought your review was pretty cool, I’m a complete masochist when it comes to philosophy in books, so I will definitely check this one out :D

    Open Court Books published a boatload of books about philosophy in pop culture (Matrix, Harry Potter, Monty Python and even South Park) Very “durr whaaa” reading :)

  9. After reading just that little passage, I’m already confused! That book sounds like a little too much work for me to read! I’m happy you get to cross it off your list, and maybe add it to your “get rid of” pile.

    I hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well, and that you enjoy the rest of the long weekend!

  10. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving! This doesn’t sound like my type of book but great job on the challenges. Maybe I’ll be able to finish some next year :)

  11. *Dar – Thank you! It was a pretty quiet day spent at my dad’s, but it was good to be around family. Zorba is definitely a skipper. :)

    *Nymeth – Sometimes I don’t mind philosophical as long as I can make sense of it–this one was way too hard!

    *Joanne – Haha–I look forward to hearing what you think!! Hopefully it works out a little better for you.

    *Laura – I was confused just typing it! I hope your Thanksgiving was good!!

    *Joanna – Finishing challenges is always the best feeling!

    *Sam – Happy belated Thanksgiving to you, too. I think the most important thing about challenges is to have fun–nothing else really matters!

    *Nicola – Thank you!!

  12. Congrats on finishing up your challenges. I have a bunch that I signed up for that I am sure that I finished but bailed on because it was hard to keep track of lists and post links on my schedule. I can barely get up blog posts as it is.

    Just from the short quote that you shared, Zorba doesn’t seem like anything that I am willing to commit my time to decipher. Good for you that you were able to make it through.

  13. I’ve had Snow Crash on my shelf FOREVER. Glad to hear you liked it.
    I’m not sure if I’ll get to finish my TBR list, but I will have read most of it and that will make me feel good to have finally read some books I’ve had for awhile.

  14. *Nicole – They do take work to keep up with, but I’m an obsessive list maker so it’s fun for me. :P Ya, Zorba is tough. There are better books out there to spend your time on! Have a great day.

    *Terri – I picked up Snowcrash for a grad course (postmodern lit) and because of crazy circumstances I didn’t get to finish it. I really enjoyed it when I went back to it and can see myself eventually re-reading it! I hope you like it. And yes–that TBR challenge is great for getting those “old” books off the shelf!!

  15. My mother gave me the film of this book, but I’ve never read it (or completed the film). Somehow it’s not quite called my name, and I get the impression you feel the same.

  16. At work I had an older gentleman tell me a story about this book. Apparently the guy who directed (or maybe wrote) Last Tango In Paris has read this book over and over again throughout the years but has never been able to figure it out.

    I guess some books are just like that!

  17. *Bellezza – Guess I won’t be watching the movie any time soon, either! While I was reading the book I thought it might be fun to watch, but then by the end I was just ready to be done.

    *Bookchronicle – LOL…glad I’m not alone. It is a strange little book.