When In Crete: The Author’s Tomb

A timely photo maybe, with today being Good Friday, but this isn’t a religious site-rather it’s the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of works such as Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation. When we were in Crete in 2008 I travelled to Heraklion to seek it out. I have most of his books and I do like to make personal connections. Fortunately I have a very understanding wife.

Although deeply spiritual, his books often reflected his struggle to find truth in religion and spirituality. Many Orthodox Church clergy condemned Kazantzakis’ work and a campaign was started to excommunicate him. His reply was: “You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I” 

The tomb is quite plain, made of stone marked with a wooden cross. The epitaph, taken from one of his works, reads:

 ‘I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free’.

At The Cretan Writer’s Grave

A timely photo maybe, but this wasn’t taken at a religious site-rather it’s the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of such novels as Zorba The Greek, The Last Temptation and, my favourite: Christ Recrucified.  I visited it when we were in Crete in 2008.

The epitaph, taken from one of his works, reads:

 ‘I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free’.

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The Grave Of Kazantzakis

This photograph was taken at the grave of the writer Nikos Kazantzakis, in Heraklion, Crete.

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The epitaph, taken from one of his books, reads “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

I have read most of his books. Although his style may be a little dated now, I enjoy in them their universal themes of existential and spiritual struggle, and the creative tension this creates. His most famous works, with help from the media of film, are Zorba The Greek, (remember the Anthony Quinn dance?), and The Last Temptation. That last one was made into the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation Of Christ, which was condemned by the Church Of Greece. His reply was:

“You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I.”

I posted this today as I thought it an appropriate photograph to share.

Happy Easter to you all. Go easy on the chocolate.

Looking Back-Crete 2008

This was the villa that we stayed in, up on a hillside in Chania. The day that we arrived the woman who was waiting to hand us the keys was helping a goat deliver its kid by the roadside. A lovely introduction to the rural life of Crete.

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In the guest book, among the usual platitudes, were two comments that stood out.

‘Every morning at 4.00am a blackbird woke us up, tapping at the window.’

It did the same to us as well. Not just tapping either, but rapping. Knocking hard. At 4.00am-did I mention that part? Every morning on the dot. I couldn’t fathom out why. There were no insects on the pane that he could have been trying to gobble up. And he couldn’t have been attracted due to being fed by guests in the past as the window was on the landing and did not open. Poe, anyone?

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

The other comment was:

‘What is the creature in the roof?

What a great premise for a story. I still haven’t written it.

Trying to eat as healthy as the locals do. When in Rome. Or rather Chania. That black and white cow cuddly toy does not belong to me, honestly.

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When tasting the air of Rethymnon, who can fail to be inspired? Strolling along the Venetian harbour at sunset we were all transformed into poets and artists, as the locals tried to sell to us their own created arts and crafts.

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We went to the ruined 6th century church of St.Titus, but did not cater for the idea of siesta time. It was closed, but we could view the still standing apse from the rear.

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Returning back to the villa we stumbled upon the war cemetery of Souda Bay. Our stay on the island coincided with the anniversary of the Battle of Crete in World War Two, and there had been an earlier ceremony there, many graves festooned with wreaths and flowers. The one that remains in my mind was a British one with a bouquet left before it, a card explaining that these flowers were from a woman who was making the visit on behalf of her Mum who had never been able to. Then, the touching line:

To the Dad I never met but have never stopped loving.

From one grave to another: standing at the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, in Heraklion.

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He was the author perhaps best known for Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation. Although his writing style has dated, I like his books and have read several, my favourite one being known to us as Christ Recrucified. The Last Temptation was made by Scorsese into the film The Last Temptation Of Christ which was condemned by both the Vatican and the Church of Greece. Kazantzakis responded:

You gave me a curse, Holy fathers, I give you a blessing: may your conscience be as clear as mine and may you be as moral and religious as I.”

A good comeback, I think. The inscription on his grave reads:

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

The villa at night.

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Despite family screams caused by hand-sized, zebra striped spiders, it was great to sit outside beneath the stars. That place remains the best viewing place of the heavens that I have found myself in.

My daughter and I-our last day on Cretan soil.

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One of the many brown eyed local women gave us a charm bracelet for her on account of her bright, blue eyes. “Those blue eyes. We call them crazy eyes!” I got the impression, although they were smiling and appeared friendly, the bracelet was actually some kind of talisman for warding off the evil eye. The magic wasn’t particularly strong-It broke on the flight home.

McDonald’s Nuggets Of Wisdom. Pun Intended.

In 2007, while in Greece, I travelled north to Delphi, climbing the slopes of Mount Parnassus, to see the Sanctuary of Apollo where the Oracle, the cloth eared Sibyl, would utter forth her prophecies.

But it was closed. I did not see that coming.

Seriously-all that way and I had forgotten that everything comes to a stop in the afternoon in retreat of the heat. I did the same when in Crete a year later, when we drove to see the ruins of St.Titus’ church in Gortyn. You think I would learn, wouldn’t you? At least we could dob around the back and look at the still-standing apse over the fence in true snooping, Mancunian fashion.

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These memories came to mind as I was sat in my local McDonalds this morning. I am fast coming around to the theory that this fast food place is the Middleton equivalent of Delphi, with all sorts of deep words of wisdom and scintillating anecdotes being dispensed by our very own intoxicated oracles.

You may recall my post of 9th of January, entitled Play the Game, Don’t Make Eye Contact? In it, in this very restaurant, I mentioned the girl telling her less than captivated grandmother all about her sex life. I omitted the account on the same day of the guy who was accusing all and sundry of being the lowlife scum who had stolen the newspaper that was actually hidden beneath his tray. Bingo day, eh?

When I’m in there I don’t mean to eavesdrop, really, I don’t. My intention is just to try and have a quiet coffee while sitting unobtrusively in the corner, reading my book. But it seems that in the Happy Meal Code of Conduct I have overlooked the bit that requires all conversation to be conducted above a minimum decibel level.

This morning two girls were sat in front of me, the Foghorn Lass and the Unable to Get a Word In Companion.

I tried to concentrate on what I was reading, but I kept on re-reading the same lines, the words not sinking in, as Foghorn slowly built up to exclaim through a mouthful of hash browns:

“At school I was always the smartest in my class, in all my classes, but I was never valued.”

Okay, we all need to work on our self-esteem, but then, after a few shouted, crumb spraying sentences that I had managed to tune out, came this nugget:

“He wants to marry me because I’m English. I think if I went over there I could probably stay at his house. I mean, we’ve been friends since…..when did I dye my hair purple? He had a girlfriend who lived in California and he lived in Vancouver. She finished it though because she said he wasn’t attentive enough. But he works, you know.”

Well how unreasonable was Californian Cold Heart? Just how did she expect him to be attentive when Cold Shouldered was trying to hold down a job? Never mind the small matter of the 883 miles that separated them both. Just what did kids want from their relationships these days?

I gave up on my book. Dystopian fiction is definitely not true to life.

That snippet of real life romance disrupted my train of thought all afternoon. l found myself haunted by the questions:

Would Foghorn go and stay with Cold Shouldered in Vancouver? Would they get married, what with her being English? And just when did she dye her hair purple?

Tune in next time. Because I can’t tune out.