Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

Zorba_book

Summary
  1. This book is about a young, smart Greek man who learns to live a little more passionately and outside the box with the help of Alexis Zorba. Zorba enjoys life like none other and takes advantage of all of its treasures and pleasures
Key Takeaways
  1. Zorba sees everything every day as if for the first time
  2. I don’t believe in anything or anyone; only in Zorba. Not because Zorba is better than the others; not at all, not a little bit! He’s a brute like the rest! But I believe in Zorba because he’s the only being I have in my power, the only one I know. All the rest are ghosts.
  3. While experiencing happiness, we have difficult 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
  4. …all that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart
  5. This is true happiness: to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. To take part in the Christmas festivities and, after eating and drinking well, to escape on your own far from all the snares, 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
  6. I’m laughing at the thought of you laughing and that’s how laughing never stops on this earth
  7. Nowadays I say this man is a good fellow, that one’s a bastard. They can be Greeks or Bulgars or Turks, it doesn’t matter. Is he good? Or is he bad? That’s the only thing I ask nowadays. And as I grow older – I’d swear this on the last crust I eat – I feel I shan’t even go on asking that! Whether a man’s good or bad, I’m sorry for him, for all of ’em.
  8. 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.
  9. What’s happening today, this minute, that’s what I care about. I say: ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m sleeping.’ ‘Well, sleep well.’ ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m kissing a woman.’ Well, kiss her well, Zorba! And forget all the rest while you’re doing it; there’s nothing else on earth only you and her! Get on with it!”
  10. Happiness is doing your duty, and the harder the duty the greater the happiness
What I got out of it
  1. A truly enjoyable read and Zorba is one of the most enthusiastic and compelling characters I have come to know so far. He is so lively and full of passion it makes you want to enjoy life more and live, at least somewhat, as Zorba did

Read Zorba the Greek

  • A Greek intellectual meets Zorba and agrees to take him to Crete to work in a mine and cook and be friends
  • Zorba is obsessed with the Santuri, a stringed instrument, but says he will only play when he feels like it as the instrument needs its freedom
  • That’s what liberty is, I thought. To have a passion, to amass pieces of gold and suddenly conquer one’s passion and throw the treasure to the four winds
  • I had despised the pleasures of the flesh for years, and, if possible, I would have eaten secretly, as if committing a shameful act
  • Two equally steep and bold paths may lead to the same peak. To act as if death did not exist, or to act thinking every minute of death, is perhaps the same thing
  • Young people are cruel beasts, they’re inhuman, they don’t understand
  • Zorba asks, “Are you a preacher or a capitalist? You must make up your mind!” But how could I choose? I was consumed by the ingenuous desire of uniting these two, of finding a synthesis in which the irreducible opposites would fraternize, and of winning both the earthly life and the kingdom of the skies
  • Zorba says, “I don’t believe in anything. If I believed in man, I’d believe in God, and I’d believe in the devil too. And that’s a whole business. Things get all muddled then, boss, and cause me a lot of complications”
  • Zorba flirted and slept with Dame Hortense – the lady who ran the hotel they were staying at
  • Whatever you do, you can’t go wrong. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. You’re like a lion, shall we say, or a wolf. That kind of beast never behaves as if it were a sheep or a donkey; it is never untrue to its nature. And you, you’re Zorba to the tips of your fingers
  • There’s a devil in me who shouts, and I do what he says
  • My life is wasted. If only I could take a cloth and wipe out all I have learnt, all I have seen and heard, and go to Zorba’s school and start the great, the real alphabet!
  • Started a lumber business together
  • Religion is opium for the masses
  • When speaking about Mimiko, a widow many are interested in – “Do you like the widow, Mimiko?” “Friend, why shouldn’t I like her? And I haven’t come out of a sewer, like everyone else?” “Of a sewer?” I said, astounded. “What d’you mean, Mimiko?” “Well, from a mother’s innards.” I was amazed. Only a Shakespeare in his most creative moments, I thought, could have found an expression of such crude realism to portray the dark and repugnant mystery of birth.
  • “Life is trouble,” Zorba continued. “Death, no. To live – do you know what that means? To undo your belt and look for trouble!”
  • …the widow and I were two insects who live but a second beneath the sun, then die for all eternity. Never more! Never more!
  • We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm
  • This, I thought, is how great visionaries and poets see everything – as if for the first time. Each morning they see a new world before their eyes; they do not really see it, they create it
  • Half my money I throw away, waste it however and wherever I feel inclined. I’m not a slave to money: money is my slave. I am a slave to work, and I’m proud of it
  • Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all, in my view, is not to have one
  • A fault confessed is half redressed
  • I did not know whether to be angry, or laugh, or just admire this primitive man who simply cracked life’s shell – logic, morality, honesty – and went straight to its very substance. All the little virtues which are so useful are lacking in him. All he has is an uncomfortable, dangerous virtue which is hard to satisfy and which urges him continually and irresistibly towards the utmost limits, towards the abyss
  • As a child, then, I had almost fallen into the well. When grown up, I nearly fell into the word “eternity,” and into quite a number of other words too – “love,” “hope,” “country,” “God.”
  • Zorba alone could lead them on like that. With him work became wine, women and song, and the men were intoxicated. The earth came to life in his hands, the stones, coal, wood and workers adopted his rhythm…
  • Meditation is also a mine, I thought, so go ahead! And I plunged into the great galleries of the mind
  • A few people only, the flower of humanity, manage to live an eternity even in their transitory lives on this earth
  • It doesn’t matter if you have no head, you must wear the right sort of hat…
  • I felt deep within me that the highest point a man can attain is not knowledge, or virtue, or goodness, or victory, but something even greater, more heroic and despairing: Sacred Awe!
  • I think, Zorba – but I may be wrong – that there are three kinds of men: those who make it their aim, as they say, to live their lives, eat, drink, make love, grow rich, and famous; then come those who make it their aim not to live their own lives but to concern themselves with the lives of all men – they feel that all men are one and they try to enlighten them, to love them as much as they can and do good to them; finally there are those who aim at living the life of the entire universe – everything, men, animals, tress, stars, we are all one, we are all one substance involved in the same terrible struggle. What struggle?…turning matter into spirit.

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