Zorba The Greek illustrates with untrammeled honesty the heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship between two complete strangers – a union that’s unimaginable to last beyond a day but unexpectedly blossoms into a bond of brotherhood. It is a poignant yet comical account of the writer’s encounter with the untutored but zealous, Zorba, who messes up with his (the writer) philosophical logic, and changes his life.
The narrator, a Greek intellectual, exists in the world of ideas, eats and breathes the mysteries of the written word, journeys into the abyss of the mind explored by the great sages to seek a sense of stability and direction. He finds peace and joy in the mental exercise, and transcendence from certain suppressed desires.
Alexis Zorba, on the other hand, is from Macedonia with gypsy tendencies. He ventures to see the world’s great lands and tackles life headlong. His wanderlust dictates his actions and shapes his being. He has a rather primitive but fresh view of life, man and God with awe-struck innocence, ignorance and phantasm that are ridiculous but inspiring, hilarious but annoying sometimes.
So if the stark differences between these two lead characters fail to capture your interest, then don’t bother reading this book. Their improbable chemistry together is the very staple of the story from whence their adventures unfold.
The book does not lack in wisdom. In fact, you will find yourself stuck on a page and taking a moment off from time to time to relish lines and phrases, or ponder on its relevance or validity, and reflect on meaningful parallels in your life.
Some QUOTES from the book:
“When shall I at last retire into solitude alone, without companions, without joy and without sorrow, with only the sacred certainty that all is a dream? When, in my rags—without desires—shall I retire contented into the mountains? When, seeing that my body is merely sickness and crime, age and death, shall I—free, fearless, and blissful—retire to the forest? When? When, oh when?”
“This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To have the stars above, the land to your left and the sea to your right and to realize of a sudden that in your heart, life has accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.”
“I was happy, I knew that. While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.”
“Free yourself from one passion to be dominated by another and nobler one. But is not that, too, a form of slavery? To sacrifice oneself to an idea, to a race, to God? Or does it mean that the higher the model the longer the longer the tether of our slavery?”
“When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage! An invisible and all-powerful enemy—some call him God, others the Devil, seem to rush upon us to destroy us; but we are not destroyed.”
“For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.”
“The highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!”
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