Monday, September 14, 2009

THE QUEST FOR NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS

Dear Friends,

I left on a quest of sorts yesterday morning (September 13th). Ever since having read ZORBA THE GREEK, and after my arrival on Crete last year for my three month vacation, I had intended to visit the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, but it seemed as if every time I started out, my intentions became diverted, either by accident or by design! I was determined on this three month trip to Crete, not to allow ANYTHING to interfere with this quest! At any rate, yesterday morning I arose early, and after showering and getting dressed, boarded the bus into downtown Iraklion. I specifically chose a Sunday because of the absence of traffic, noise and people. After disembarking the bus just a little beyond St. Minas Church and not far from the southwestern end of Market Street, I pulled my tourist map from my back pocket and tried to get my bearings. Now, by my own admission, I am probably the worlds worst at following directions, either verbally or from a map, but after studying the map for a few moments, I decided to venture down an unmarked street which appeared would take me in the general direction of Nikos Kazantzakis’ grave. I did know that his grave was atop the Martinengo bastion, which was part of the old Venetian fortifications that surrounded the old city of Heraklion. As I proceeded down this street, I noticed part of the old wall ahead and thought that I might be nearing his grave. My instincts were rewarded when I came across a sign indicating the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis was down a street to the right. After walking several hundred yards, I came across a narrow street which forked to the left and seemed to climb upwards toward the top of the Venetian wall. As soon as I began to ascend the left fork there was another sign stating the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis was ahead. Near the top of the little fork, I was directed to follow a paved footpath to the right and continued upward. Then, the footpath broadened, turned to the left and a wide stone stairway led me the final few steps to the summit of the Venetian fortification. There, at the top of the stone stairway, a flat expanse lay before me. There were neatly manicured shrubs, flowering bushes, trees, and a pathway that followed the perimeter of the summit, and there, in the middle was the final resting place of Nikos Kazantzakis. I paused. I felt as if I were approaching literary royalty! Suddenly, passages from ZORBA THE GREEK raced through my head, and scenes from the movie played out in my mind. I stood before his grave in complete awe of a writer who could so fluently and simply explain philosophy in everyday dialogue and description. But, perhaps that is what separates just a writer from a great writer. If a writer is able to explain the most complex of philosophical issues through a simple peasant like Zorba and in such a way that most every reader is able to fully grasp and understand what is being said (or taught), then he has achieved that measure of greatness...such was Nikos Kazantzakis! There were flowers placed on his grave which had obviously been picked by caring admirers from the surrounding flowering bushes. And someone had also tied a blossom to the cross-member of the simple wooden cross that stood at the head of his stone. I spent several minutes just standing there; I seemed to lose track of time. Then, I extracted my Nikon D200 camera from its case and began to photograph his grave and the surrounding area. What follows is a pictorial tribute to one of the greatest writers of our time. I hope it is fitting.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,


Bob Armistead
















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, looking northwest.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, looking west.















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, looking north.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Small plaque imbedded in Nikos Kazantzakis' headstone. It reads, "Peace", in several different languages. To get a larger image, pass your cursor over the photo and "click".
















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: The grave of Eleni Kazantzaki, wife of Nikos Kazantzakis. It is located about 20 yards to the left of Nikos Kazantzakis' grave - almost obscured by bushes and hedges.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: Heraklion as seen from atop the Venetian fortifications where the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis is located.



CENTER PHOTO: The backside of Nikos Kazantzakis' tomb with the morning sun overhead.

12 comments:

Laust One said...

Great Photos Bobby. I guess I check the library copy out and finally actually read the book.

Daniel Laust IAS 1975 to 1976

Jeff Wild said...

I visited there many years ago and loved the quote on the headstone:

I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.

I even got a t-shirt with it on it (how corny is that?)

Have you also visited the Minoan site that inspired Kazantzakis' notion of the Cretan Glance? There is also a famous monastery on Crete that Kazantzakis mentions at which during one of the Turk/Greek battles the townspeople killed themselves instead of being taken prisoner. I remember visiting it and seeing many of the skulls from the martyrs.

Enjoy your visit and say, "Hi" to Nikos for me.

Warmly,
Jeff

Bob (Bobby) said...

Dear Jeff,

Unfortunately, the quotation, "I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free", is no longer on his headstone. I don't know if it was removed by vandals or if it was deemed as "politically incorrect". And, I don't think that having a T-shirt with that saying on it is corny at all! I am a little envious - I wish that I had one!!!

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob

Jeff Wild said...

That is a shame about the engraving. What a change. I remember that the t-shirts were available at all the tourist areas.

I assume you have read other works than Zorba. Do you have other favorites?

Warmly,
Jeff

Steve G. said...

Your dialogue and the photos are really something!

Bob (Bobby) said...

Dear Jeff, I have also read, "THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST", and "REPORT TO GRECO". But, I must admit, "ZORBA THE GREEK" is my favorite. When I return to my home from Crete, I will re-read, "ZORBA THE GREEK", again. There is something about that novel that captivates both my mind and my soul! I can't explain it. I love to watch the movie and then read the novel! Or vice-versa!

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

adiktion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adiktion said...

Thank you for sharing something I had never seen before! I love when you take me on an adventure!

-james gill 88-90

Pete said...

I seem to remember that there was a bust of him in a small square off of Lion's square in 63-64. Thought it was of Shakespeare at the time and couldn't figure out why William would be there.

Bob (Bobby) said...

Dear Pete,

That bust was of El Greco, the famous artist. I did photograph that same bust of El Greco in 1969. Yes, I agree, he did look somewhat like Shakespeare, but, it was of El Greco.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

Pete said...

Doh!!!!

Alexis Svenn said...

Nice blog, Freedom and Death was my personal favourite.