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Zorba the Greek: life and adventures of Alexis Zorba – Nikos Kazantzakis

Zorba the Greek (in Greek: Βίος και Πολιτεία του Αλέξη Ζορμπά, Víos kai Politeía tou Aléxē Zorbá, Life and adventures of Alexis Zorba) is a novel written by the Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis, published for the first time in 1946. It is the 1946 story. a young Greek man who ventures to escape his literary life with the help of the bustling and mysterious Alexis Zorba.

The novel was adapted into a successful 1964 film of the same name by Michael Cacoyannis, as well as into a 1968 musical called Zorba.


Summary and synopsis of the work

The book opens in a cafe in Piraeus, just before dawn on an autumn morning. The year is probably 1916. The narrator, a young Greek intellectual, decides to put his books aside for a few months after being touched by the parting words of a friend, Stavridakis, who went to the Russian Caucasus to help some Pontic Greeks. (in that region they are often referred to as the Caucasus Greeks) who are being persecuted. He heads to Crete to reopen a disused brown coal mine and immerse himself in the world of the peasants and the working class.

He is about to start reading his copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy when he feels that he is being watched; He turns around and sees a man in his sixties who sees him through the glass door of the cafe. The man enters and immediately approaches him to ask for a job. He claims to have experience as a chef, miner, and Santuri player, or cimbalom, and introduces himself as Alexis Zorba, a Romanian-born Greek. The narrator is fascinated by the lascivious opinions and expressive form of Zorba, so he decides to use him as a foreman. On their way to Crete, they speak on a host of subjects, and Zorba’s soliloquies set the tone for much of the book.

Upon arrival, the hospitality of Anagnostis and Kondomanolious, the owners of the cafe, are rejected, and at Zorba’s suggestion they head to Madame Hortense’s hotel, which is nothing more than a row of old bath cabins. Circumstances compel them to share one of those cabins.

The narrator spends Sunday wandering around the island, the landscape of which he describes as “a good prose, carefully ordered, sober … powerful and contained” and read Dante. Upon returning to the hotel for dinner, the couple invites Madame Hortense to their table, asking her to speak about her past as a courtesan. Zorba nicknames her “Bouboulina” (Which is probably inspired by the Greek heroine) while he takes the nickname “Canavaro” (Inspired by Admiral Canevaro, a former lover of Hortense).

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The next day, the mine opens and work begins. The narrator, who has socialist ideals, tries to meet the workers, but Zorba warns him to keep his distance: “The man is a brute… If you are cruel to him, he respects you and fears you. If you’re nice to him, he gouges out your eyes. ” Zorba himself immerses himself in work, which is characteristic of his general attitude, which is to be absorbed in whatever he is doing or with whom he is currently.

Zorba often works long hours and requests that he not be interrupted while working. The narrator and Zorba have many long conversations about a wide variety of things, from life to religion, each other’s past, and how they got to where they are now. Even the narrator learns a lot about the humanity of Zorba, had it not been for a man as peculiar as him, he would never have left his life among the books.

The narrator gains a new zest for life from his experiences with Zorba and the others around him, but the tragedy marks his stay in Crete. His one-night stand with a beautiful passionate widow is followed by his public beheading. Alienated by the toughness and amorality of the villagers, he finally returns to the mainland once his and Zorba’s businesses are completely spent on finance, when they run out of money.

The narrator says goodbye to Zorba to go to the mainland, which, despite the lack of a great outburst of emotionality, is emotionally heartbreaking for both Zorba and the narrator. It almost goes without saying that the two of them (the narrator and Zorba) will remember each other throughout their natural lives.

The narrator and Zorba never see each other again, although Zorba sends narrator letters over the years, informing him of his travels, work, and his marriage to a 25-year-old woman. The narrator does not accept Zorba’s invitation to ever visit him. Finally, the narrator receives a letter from Zorba’s wife, informing him of Zorba’s death (of which the narrator had a premonition). The widow tells the narrator that her friend’s last words were about him, and in accordance with the wishes of her dead husband, she wants the narrator to visit her home and take the Santor of Zorba.

Genre: novel

It is everywhere a wonderful action-adventure novel as its name says. Nikos presents us with a very clean and almost childish prose, masterfully a narrative full of conflicts and solutions, intertwined in a very subtle way with a coarse reflection on life. Despite a tragic ending, it can be said that it is a very well told story.

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  • Zorba: the central figure in the novel. He is in his sixties, but he feels that, ironically, his desires become more pronounced as he ages. When he goes to town to buy tree-harvesting equipment, he easily gets sidetracked and spends most of his boss’s money on women and wine. He has a great appetite for earthly pleasures. It is noisy, raw, and bigger than life. He believes in the primacy of the senses over the moral and intellectual faculties. His pagan theology has its roots in nature and its own senses.
  • The narrator: He goes to Crete to experience the world by getting involved in a capitalist company, but he takes all his books. By chance, he and Zorba meet and become friends. The narrator tells the story and analyzes the incidents. Observe Zorba with fascination. However, his sterile intellectual sensitivity is slowly transformed by his new experiences. Begin to see the value of sensual pleasures. Zorba guides and encourages him.


  • Madame Hortense: who had a wild and colorful life as a courtesan. She was the mistress of many important men of her time. Now she is an aged and broken woman who has nothing but her memories.
  • The Widow: A melancholic woman who prefers a lonely life to a desperate attempt to bring men into her life to fill the void her husband left. She is young and beautiful. The men of the town want it and wish they could have it, even for one night.


Zorba embodies the very essence of life in all its manifestations. Its main features are an indomitable life force and intuition. A vital force that propels him forward, allowing him to overcome apathy and inertia, with a deep instinct that guides him and keeps him in immediate contact with the essence of things.

As for the main philosophical questions that concern the narrator, through simple thinking and the experience of a tumultuous life, Zorba shows him that the answers, if they exist, are not found in books, but in life itself, always and when you live passionately, free of hopes and expectations.

As Zorba himself says of death:

“Act as if death does not exist, and act thinking of death at all times …”