There are some books which are unputdownable, yet they compel you to put them down in order to contemplate. Every page is a bewitching invitation to turn over to the next. Every line captures your fancy and you don’t want to leave the intoxication. Yet your mind urges you to stop and take in a line here or a metaphor there more deeply. One of the many books which did that to me (and will do it again when I read it again) is Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.
There is very little by way of plot in this novel. There is the first person narrator who would rather choose a book on love than a beautiful woman who offers the experience of love to him. Then there’s Zorba, the protagonist, who is a sixty year-old man with boundless passion for life. He thinks that a woman sleeping alone is “a shame on all men.” The intensity of Zorba’s passion for life can seduce women, notwithstanding his age. He is a lover, fighter, adventurer, musician, cook, miner, and enlightener.
Happiness, for him, is as simple as a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, or the sound of the sea. Probe him a little and he would define happiness as “to have no ambition and to work like a horse as if you had every ambition. To live far from men, not to need them and yet to love them. 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 become a fairy tale.”
Fairy tale, yes. In your heart. In actuality, life is trouble. Zorba knows that too well. To live is to embrace trouble. Seeking enlightenment from books as the narrator is doing is to go on knocking on a deaf man’s door forever. Ah, but follies are not just the bookworm’s prerogative. Every worthwhile man has his folly. The greatest folly is not to have one. Without that folly, which Zorba calls madness on another occasion, a person never dares to cut the rope and be free.
Zorba grows into your consciousness. Zorba becomes the consciousness. That’s why the book is unputdownable. But you have to put it down. Again and again. Zorba will make you do that.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 157: #irresistiblebook