by Nikos Kazantzakis
translated by Jonathan Griffin
This 500-page monster is another novel, set during the 1889 rebellion in Crete, soaked in the joy of living, rife with graphic fighting, killing, sex, feasting, drinking, and deep, calm spirituality. Kazantzakis' obsession with the duality of human nature is everywhere apparent, for example in the opposition of the wild Captain Michales to his blood brother and sworn enemy, the pleasure-loving Turk Nuri Bey; in some minor characters' attempt to reconcile sainthood and enjoyment of the earth; in the lusty old grandfather's final question concerning the meaning of life; the juxtaposition of the very old and the newly adult, the dead and the fortunately alive. Many scenes are quite memorable, showing a bloody knife fight or men who get drunk and jump for the joy of life over the corpse they are supposed to be watching. The final scene of death and sacrifice is the most powerful. It's a great book.