Culture . Tradition

Alexis Zorbas – I only care what happens today

Alexis Zorbas - I only care what happens today
Actor Anthony Quinn as Alexis Zorbas. "I will not remember what happened yesterday here. I do not ask more for what happens tomorrow! I only care what happens today, this minute."
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“The famous novel about Alexis Zorbas, the earthy philosopher of the simple heart, who knows all the professions, you can practice with foot, hand and head. A declaration of love to Greece and its people, a picturesque novel of ancient serenity. Even as a film with Anthony Quinn it was an unforgettable world success.” With these words the publisher describes his edition of the best-known novel by the Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis.

Alexis Zorbas – I only care what happens today

Alexis Zorbas (Anthony Quinn) and his Boss Basil (Alan Bates) dancing the famous Sirtaki dance on the beach of Stavros on Akrotiri peninsula. (1964) Photo from ellinikoskinimatografos.gr

Alexis Zorbas has not gone to school

His common sense is unspoiled. He watches everything carefully, curious and eager to learn – as if he were seeing everything for the first time. He always focuses on the here and now: “I will not remember what happened yesterday here. I do not ask more for what happens tomorrow! I only care what happens today, this minute.” Once he says to his new boss:” I just had lunch in mind, a chicken and pilaf with cinnamon on top. My whole brain evaporated as pilaf. We stuff ourselves until the stomach is full and then we will see. First things first. Now we have Pilaf before us, so we only think of the pilaf. Tomorrow morning it will be the turn for the brown coal, because then we will care only about the brown coal. No half work! Understood? God, he is able to separate work and pleasure: “The day is for work. That is why he is a man. The night is for the pleasure, so she is a woman. One should not confuse everything.”

Friends for life: Jorgis Zorbas & Nikos Kazantzakis

Alexis Zorbas – I only care what happens today

The real Alexis Zorbas. His name was Jorgis Zorbas.

The real Alexis Zorbas, his name was Jorgis Zorbas, played a prominent role in the life of Nikos Kazantzakis. He was born 1865 in Kozani and died 1941 in Skopje.

Kazantzakis turned him into a mythical figure, calling him Alexis. The acquaintance of the two are found in other circumstances: in the novel, he writes that he met him in Piraeus, but in reality they met on the Chalkidiki peninsula, near the sacred mountain where Kazantzakis along with his friend, the poet Angelos Sikelianos, was staying.

1917 the two men Alexis Zorbas and Nikos Kazantzakis decided to jointly use a lignite mine in Prastoba at Mani (Peloponnese). This can still be seen today. Another fictional element is that the entire plot in the novel unfolded in Crete; in fact Zorbas never set foot on Crete.

Madame Hortense

Alexis Zorbas – I only care what happens today

Adeline Guitar, the real life Madame Hortense.

As far as Madame Hortense is concerned, the main heroine in the novel, in reality her name was Adeline Guitar born 1874 in Toulon (south of France). She died in 1938 in Ierapetra (Crete). Her Cretan friends called her Madame Hortense, because she resembled the same flower hydrangea.

 

 

Recommendation: forget everything you have seen in the eponymous film. The book is for you. It is one of the most profound books I have ever read. It reads as easily as a brook splashing merrily along the way; and yet its shocking truths made me repeatedly close the book.