Born on this day in Crete, Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) is considered one of the most important Greek writers and philosophers of the 20th century.
"Since we cannot change reality," he said. "Let us change the eyes which see reality."
His works examined the dual nature of man and the conflict between the flesh and spirit.
"You have everything but one thing, madness. A man needs a little madness or else-- he never dares cut the rope and be free," he said.
His earthy novel Zorba the Greek (Vios kai politeia tou Alexi Zorba, 1946) created a passionate character, immortalized by Anthony Quinn in film. "Ah, if you could dance all that you've just said," proclaimed Zorba, "then I'd understand."
Controversy exploded with The Last Temptation of Christ (O teleutaios peirasmos, 1951), a novel of Jesus' struggle to reconcile his humanity and divinity. The book, which includes a dream-like scene of an angel leading Christ from the cross, was banned by the Church in 1954.
Kazantzakis was excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church. Martin Scorsese's 1988 film adaptation likewise caused protest riots and religious outrage.
"Everything in this world has a hidden meaning," Kazantzakis explained, trying to understand world philosophies, "Men, animals, trees, stars, they are all hieroglyphics."
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