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Zorba the Greek
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1001 book reviews > Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis

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Mindy aka serenity | 23 comments Zorba the Greek
3 stars

This book follows the unnamed narrator through an adventure in Crete, with the man he hires along the way, Andrei Zorba, a 60 year old grizzled man who tells stories of all the places he has been and injects his new boss with a philosophy for life all his own. Zorba is irreverent, loud, bullish, and has a love of life, beauty, and women, with strong opinions about each to match. His opinions about women are pretty misogynistic, so I didn't much care for that part. But Zorba is endearing to the narrator and even a bit to me. He has a lust for life that I envy, so I can empathize with the bookish narrator in this way. The pace was a bit slow and that coupled with the opinions on women that I did not like brought my rating down, but all in all it was a good book.


Kristel (kristelh) | 3967 comments Mod
Read this in 2013; my review - Live life in your head or live life large. Zorba is large. Parts of this story really would grab me and parts seemed to be just toooo draggy. The author, Nikos Kazantzakis was born in Crete and he was a runner up for the Nobel in 1952. He is the author of 30 several novels, plays and books on philosophy. The narrator is unnamed. He has been called a ‘Bookworm’ by his friend and this has made him angry and early on we know he is reading the works of Buddha and aspiring to be an ascetic. He meets Zorba who invites himself to accompany the narrator. The narrator likes this larger than life man and agrees to take him to Crete where they will mine coal. Zorba is the exact opposite of Zorba and lives life for the moment, aspiring to enjoy life to the fullest in the moment. This is where the philosophical aspects are demonstrated as the two characters play out their opposing qualities. Through most of the book it appears that Zorba’s hedonistic bent is the winner but then things get tough. The narrator learns a lot from Zorba, does Zorba learn from the narrator. This quote by the narrator is a good example of the narrator's reflections; “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. But on this Cretan coast I was experiencing happiness and knew I was happy." This book was funny but it also was full of deep reflections and also of great loss.

What I really experienced in reading this book was great desire to be in Crete instead of Minnesota. Especially this winter.


Mindy aka serenity | 23 comments Thanks for sharing your review! I too wish I were in Crete rather than Wisconsin!


Amanda Dawn | 993 comments I listened to this one on audio recently, and ended up rating it 2 stars. There were a few deep and beautiful fragments (such as the quote in Kristel's review here) that I loved in it, as well as descriptions of various Greek cultures I enjoyed. But, overall I was not engaged by the book and pretty turned off by Zorba's constant misogynist tangents and thoughts about taking an iron-fist approach to workers that I didn't care about hearing. I filed this into the "some shallow gross man who thinks he's deep really wants to hear himself speak" subset of the list, which I have sadly added a handful of books to.


Daisey | 228 comments There were some specific descriptions and individual lines in this book that I truly enjoyed, but overall I did not enjoy the story. As the book went on, I also had a hard time staying focused on the audio just because I was not that interested in or connected to the individual characters. I did not at all appreciate the way Zorba talked about and treated women which also decreased my enjoyment of the book.

*Read for TBR Takedown March 2021


Gail (gailifer) | 1273 comments I came to this book with preconceptions which, of course, is always dangerous. I did find Zorba to be an interesting mix of exuberance, passion, and constant questioning of the rules of society, religion and belief. His ultimate foundational belief in Zorba coupled with a generally good soul was attractive. However, the narrator, and/or the author has such a horrible take on women in general and all the specific women we meet in the book are treated so poorly that I could not enjoy the book.


Ginny | 74 comments I really didn't enjoy this book, but it is well written with very descriptive characters, strong dialogue and engaging storylines, so I still gave it 3 stars on account of all that. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. It's so misogynistic that I found it to be an arduous read. The main takeaway seems to be the lesson the narrator learns from Zorba is to not live your whole life through books but to get out and experience life in all its full and amazing glory. Which is a great message but not a good enough reason to make this a worthwhile read. You can easily find that message elsewhere in much more enjoyable novels and without all the misogyny!


message 8: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Lewis | 1 comments I’m a little surprised at some of the comments here.

Firstly, those who listened as an audio book…I actually started that, and after a few paragraphs was so put off by his voice and the way he was reading it that stopped and bought the book instead. That made all the difference.

I’ve found the book wonderful so far. I’m only just over half way through, but find deep philosophical comments on almost every page. Sometimes several on a single page! That doesn’t usually happen. I feel it is an exceptionally deep and thought provoking book, and I’m enjoying it immensely.

For those that struggled with Zorba’s morals…I can of course see your point! But I think you miss the point of the book if you get waylaid by that. The book itself is from another time (1950’s) and within the book Zorba himself is from another - timeless/ancient - time. I don’t think you can or should use our morals of today to judge him. Just accept him for what he is. I don’t mean condone him, I don’t mean encourage or turn a blind eye to any similar behaviour today. I just mean accept him as a creature of his time and circumstance, and observe his life in that light.

In essence the book (so far) is about the contrast (and conflict) between living your life overly in your mind (which I worry I have done too much of…) vs living life to the full with experiences. But the discussions comparing these two approaches are rich, deep, fascinating, and thought provoking.

I could never - and wouldn’t want - to live life like Zorba. But I reckon I can learn something from him! And intend to try to live more fully and more ‘in the moment’ from now on.

I think it’s a great book, and s great read, from clearly a great writer.


message 9: by Pip (last edited Nov 29, 2021 01:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1361 comments I listened to an Audible version of the book, read by George Guidal whose rendition was mesmerising, especially of the deep, almost gutteral voice of Zorba, particularly when he was drawling out the word "Boss". The book was published in 1947, translated into English in 1952, and I thought that the author, Nikos Kazantzakis, was expressing prevalent attitudes to women at the time, not promoting misogyny himself. The discussions about life, religion, women and food were intriguing and thought-provoking. I expect that I have been influenced by seeing the movie, with the charismatic Anthony Quinn in the title role sometime in the 1960's, when I can assure younger readers that attitudes to women were not so different to those depicted to be accurate in Crete in the middle of last century! The memory of watching Greek men dancing resounded still when Zorba was attesting that he could express his philosophy better through dance than words.


message 10: by Book (new) - rated it 3 stars

Book Wormy | 1932 comments Mod
I read the book and honestly it was the most boring book I have read for a while.

I finished it before bed yesterday tried to answer the discussion questions today only to realise I couldn't actually remember anything that had happened.

I really had to push myself to finish this and would not read it again.

For me Zorba came across like Father Jack (for those in the UK) "drink! drink! girls! drink!"

3 Stars as it wasn't horrendous just very dull.


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