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Zorba the Greek

Zorba the Greek

I was making a list of films I wanted to watch over the Easter Holidays and for some reason, maybe because I was actually thinking of the summer holidays, the first film that came to mind was ‘Zorba the Greek’, arguably among the most iconic films ever made. Of course, like many great films it is based on a book, the actual translation from the Greek title is, ‘The Life and Philosophy of Alexis Zorbas’.  The book is indeed a life philosophy, bursting at the seams with wisdom of Platonic proportions but it was the film that made Zorba, the central character, a household name almost world-wide – who, after all,  doesn’t know of a restaurant named ‘Zorbas’?

What is the book about? Well, there are a number of themes: the search and desire for real freedom, that real joy is found in simple pleasures and comradeship, that the journey is way more important than the destination, and the conflict between the Apollonian versus the Dionysian aspects of our psyche.

The plot is straightforward but woven into it is an exploration of social values and in-built prejudices that hinder progress, stifle freedom, and present the mundane as the ideal. The characters, all penned with affection or understanding, and more often with both, for all their shortcomings or their greatness. Kazantsakis’ messages to us: to re-evaluate our own value system.

Reading the book or watching the film, either way, it is as though a Cretan breeze has ruffled the curtains and made us breathe in the salty sea air and old dreams come back to greet us like long lost friends.  


Zorba the Greek Quotes

“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” 

“This is true happiness: 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 accomplished its final miracle: it has become a fairy tale.” 

“Look, one day I had gone to a little village. An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What, grandfather!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned around and said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going to die any minute.’ 
Which of us was right, boss?” 

“When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage! An invisible and all-powerful enemy—some call him God, others the Devil, seem to rush upon us to destroy us; but we are not destroyed.” 

“Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea.” 



The famous Zorba song.

Mikis Theodorakis, one of Greece’s most renowned composers wrote the score for the film. The theme tune, Zorba’s Dance seems to have become synonymous with the Greek spirit; a melody full of vitality – fresh and strong; it eases you into its irresistible rhythm and then gently gathers pace lifting the spirit into a world of harmony and light.















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