Nikos Kazantzakis Bibliography Definition

Nikos Kazantzakis Biography

Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek philosopher and writer. This biography gives detailed information about his childhood, life, works, and timeline.

Nikos Kazantzakis, a Greek philosopher and writer, lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. He is most famous for his novel, ‘Zorba the Greek’, with his worldwide fame largely tied to the novel’s interpretation as a critically and popularly acclaimed film in the 1960s. In addition to his magnus opus, Kazantzakis’ accomplishments include other novels, travel books, plays, memoirs, essays and other literary and philosophical works. Besides writing, Kazantzakis was also involved in political causes throughout much of his life. He briefly held political office, though he is primarily remembered for his contributions to the fields of literature and philosophy. His philosophical writings, though less popularly read than his novels, are considered by many Kazantzakis enthusiasts to have been the most notable of his accomplishments. For his role as a man of letters as well as his involvement in the world of philosophy and politics, he has received numerous awards and commendations. Today, numerous exhibitions, symposia and other events are regularly organized to commemorate his life and his work. A permanent museum on the island of Crete is entirely dedicated to Kazantzakis and features his desk, library and some of his manuscripts, as well as various personal effects.

Nikos Kazantzakis

Childhood & Early Life

  • Nikos Kazantzakis was born on 18 February 1883, Heraklion, Crete, to Michael Kazantzakis, a farmer and animal feed dealer, and Maria Kazantzakis. He was the first-born of four children. His other siblings were Anastasia, Eleni and Yiorgos; Yiorgos died in infancy.
  • In 1902, Kazantzakis left Crete to study law at the University of Athens, a degree which he would complete in four years.

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  • In 1906, Kazantzakis published his first book, ‘Ophis kai krino’, and had his first play, ‘Xemeronei’, staged.
  • In 1907, having completed his law degree, Kazantzakis moved to Paris to study philosophy, finding great inspiration in the work of Henri Bergson.
  • In 1909, Kazantzakis completed his philosophy degree with a dissertation on Nietzsche titled, ‘Friedrich Nietzsche on the Philosophy of Right and the State.’ Upon completing his degree, he returned to Greece.
  • Beginning in 1910 and continuing into the 1930s, Kazantzakis traveled extensively, spending time in China, Japan, Russia, England and Spain. During this period and later in life, he would also spend significant time in Cypus, Egypt, Mount Sinai, Czechoslovakia, Berlin and Nice, France.
  • In 1919, Kazantzakis was appointed as the director general of the Greek Ministry of Public Welfare, a post he held for only one year before resigning. During his service, he helped feed and rescue over 150,000 Greek-born war victims.
  • Between 1925 and 1938, Kazantzakis worked on an epic poem, ‘Odyssey: A Modern Sequel’, based on Ulysses’s story and beginning where the original story ends. Over this period, he rewrote the work seven times.
  • From 1941 to 1943, Kazantzakis worked on the novel ‘Zorba the Greek’, the story of a young Greek intellectual who meets a mysterious man called Alexis Zorba. The novel would eventually be turned into a blockbuster film as well as a Broadway musical.
  • In 1945, Kazantzakis led a small leftist (though not communist) party in Greece and represented the party in the capacity of a Minister without Portfolio.
  • In 1946, The Society of Greek Writers nominated Kazantzakis for the Nobel Prize for Literature, along with Angelos Sikelianos. Kazantzakis lost to Albert Camus by one vote, a defeat which Camus himself described as unfair, claiming that Kazantzakis deserved the honor instead.