On Nikos Kazantzakis’ Odyssey (1938)
“How much more ancient is the heart’s deep root, and mind is but a last, last bloom of little memory! The heart wants to recount what it has seen and suffered, but stutters, mute, and cannot brim with a single word; it hops round in our chests and shrills like a caged bird…”
The 33,333 lines of Nikos Kazantzakis’ Odyssey offer a panorama of the author’s entire intellectual life, his worldview, and the questions he sought answers to over many years. The central motif is travel, and the central thesis the struggle to win freedom.
The protagonist, a figure of whom Kazantzakis was particularly fond, is not identical to the prototypical Homeric Odysseus. It is with his own characteristics that we see him dominate the world of Kazantzakis’ Odyssey. His main trait is his detachment from the world. Eternal traveler and constant migrant, he rebels without fear or hope against decline, against enslavement, against the tyranny of the material world, seeking the meaning of life and pure, absolute freedom.
Kazantzakis decided that the protagonist of his grandiose epic “had to be made to view the abyss with such a glance– without hope and fear, but also without insolence – upright on the very brink of the precipice.”
“I am creating him,” says the author, “to face the abyss with tranquility, and in creating him I struggle to resemble him. I am entrusting Odysseus with all my longings. He is the mould I am carving to cast the human being of the future. Whatever I longed for but was unable to do, he will be able to accomplish…”
Read also ‘The Spiritual Odyssey of Nikos Kazantzakis’, a talk by Kimon Friar, here: https://www.scribd.com