I hope for nothing, I am not afraid of anything, I am free.

(Nikos Kazantzakis)

Herein, my intention is to bestow a symbolic Noble peace prize for well-recognized contributions to humanity. I do so both as a private global citizen and as the Honorary President of the World Philosophical Forum, Athens. It is my song! So, I have decided that Kazantzakis will receive an imaginary, posthumous and symbolic Peace Prize, so help me God! It is my song but dedicated to Tina my wife of 62 years who showed me what hospitality can be and who introduced me to several Zorbas and made me understand that love is stronger than death. While I don’t have the right to grant someone a Nobel Prize, I can bestow a Noble prize on Nikos Kazantakis.

In 1954, the Greek Orthodox Church of America condemned his Last Temptation of Christ as indecent, atheistic and treasonable. The novel was listed in the Librorum Prohibitorum, Vatican Index of forbidden books.

Every place and time has witnessed disturbing images worthy of a museum of remembrance as in Viannos, on the southern coast of Crete. If alive today, Kazantakis would I am sure visit it regularly. There stands a small Holocaust museum and a church of remembrance. From its ceiling hang hundreds of candelabras one for each of its slaughtered citizens at the hands of German troops. As WWII came to an end in Europe I recall the phrase forgive but never forget. Recognition of wrongs can sometimes take a long time and each place has unsung heroes. All states have the power to silence opponents, erase individuality, victimize, destroy and kill perceived irritants. Countries churches, organizations and high profile groups as well as influential individuals can exert pressure to bestow or withhold, obstruct or encourage and lobby for, or prevent recognition. Recognition of greatness is no exception. One example is Nikos Kazantzakis who gave us Christ Recrucified and a philosophy of what an ideal of humanity could be. Only after holding ourselves accountable can forgiveness emerge. Many crimes committed against kin have never been held accountable or compensation received.

At the end of the brutal German occupation of Greece 1944 Nikos Kazantzakis trudged and with others the length and breadth of Crete to catalogue Nazi atrocities. Although Peace came reluctantly it was a replay of 1923 and the treaty of Lausanne in the sense that reparations were never made or received. In the First Balkan War, 1912 Kazantzakis enlisted as a volunteer and was seconded to the office of Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. At his behest he became Director General of the Ministry of Care and on a related mission of mercy became a firsthand witness to slaughter in the Greek Pontos. In 1919 he succeeded to repatriate 150,000 Greeks in the Caucasus region who were in immediate danger of slaughter. The writer’s team was a personal choice and included Zorba the Greek who refused any recompense for his part in the humanitarian mission. His experience in the Caucasus remained sealed within him for the rest of his life.

In his Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis tells us that he passionately loved solitude, silence, gazing for hours at fire or sea, needing no other company. Fire and sea were always faithful and loving companions: each time he loved a woman or an idea, it was because he found the essential features of fire or of the sea in them, a duality in his soul.

Nikos Kazantzakis believed that a world that does not right wrongs and improve, will learn truth too late, tomorrow. He was anxious about man’s state who was in some form of chains, everywhere although born free. His thoughts are crucial for today. His creative mind saw poetry as the salt of the earth that prevents the rot of the world. He thought that our individual Odyssey would impart happiness and he who had made his, is happy. Never was education in need of such imagination.

When the world thinks of him I am sure that it is of Zorba the Greek or his Report to Greco that first come to mind. Many will recall Anthony Quinn playing the zither or dancing whenever the spirit moved him. Others will remember the frenetic dance and collapse of the ill-conceived aerial conveyer carrying coal down the mountainside to the shoreline just as it was being blessed by the priest. Yet others will recall the deliberate knifing of the sinful women in the village square. Others will remember how Zorba loosened up the young Englishman to bring him alive (Alan Bates).

The voice of his peers was expressed by Elie Wiesel American-Jewish author recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He said whoever starts reading Kazantzakis can never stop. Albert Camus said that he deserved the Nobel Prize in Literature 100 times more than all of his contemporaries who won it, adding that he was generous. When Camus won the Nobel by just one vote over him he sent his congratulations with a very warm greeting.

His writings live and breathe; inspirational, masculine, neurotic and absurd. it is said that his language, is a mixture of prose and poetry with small and large elements, idiomatic and commonplace that are comprehensible and crystal clear attention grabbers while others defy general understanding and sometimes with words of his own creation, which experts guess at their meaning. Can we ever trace the core elements of his robust thinking? It drove an exuberant personality and an adventurous life, supported his acrobatic actions above all chaos, in Crete and in the Pontos, a geographical area now belonging to Turkey.

Pontos, the Asia Minor Disaster and the pandemic of Dengue Fever have a special place in the Greek psyche and history of the Greek nation. Quite recently, Konstantinos Koutras, Greek Consul General speaking in New York spoke of lost homelands, poverty, the wronged hero and the heroic mother and repeated that the Pontos holds a special place in the history of the Greek nation.

According to one American source, sometime between New Year’s Eve and the morning of New Year’s Day (1922) a group of young refugees reached the safety of the Greek lines in freezing darkness and in a dreadful state. It was their 67th day to freedom. In the Greek Pontus to the north, they had witnessed horrific tragedy taking place since May 1921; seen parents, children and siblings, slaughtered. Kemal's Turks were killing, forcibly displacing, and setting fire to villages. They slaughtered women, children and the elderly, raped and pillaged with the goal of erasing all aspects of Greek life. Having managed to escape they roamed the snow-capped mountains surrounded by military detachments but desperately avoided capture, persecution and death. As winter came on they decided that salvation was only possible by reaching Greece. The sea route was impossible since the beaches were occupied by the Kemalists. The land route was their only option. Theirs was a daring plan to traverse hundreds of kilometers though enemy territory to reach the border. It was their 67th day as the group leader advanced towards the guard post. Startled and amazed the Greek sentry could only mutter, Santa Claus. Intact, they had reached the Greek border and safety.

As the Ottoman Empire imploded boundaries shifted, sometimes a great distance in a very short time other times shorter distances over longer time periods. Mass migration and genocide of Armenians and Greeks of the Pontos and Asia Mino occurred. War, Balkan, World, world shaking revolution-Russian, Spanish Flu placed a political silence on these events. Sensitive and intelligent ears though registered them in a variety of ways. "The future Nobelist Ernest Hemmingway asked who will feed such a population? No one knows!; in the coming years the Christian world will hear a heartbreaking cry that I hope will reach as far as Canada: Don't forget the Greeks! Coincidentally Rudyard Kipling expressed the words of the Hellenic National Anthem in English; from the graves of our slain, Shall thy valour prevail, As we greet thee again, Hail, Liberty! Hail! One year later John Burrows noted the Greek race rises fertile, progressive and constantly expanding under the leadership of one of the greatest man of the century, a man who fulfills all the ideals and ambitions of the race, namely, Eleftherios Venizelos. In Venizelos he saw a restoration of Hellenism and likened him to Pericles. There is nothing that can be said of the refugee problem in Greece can be overstated. In 1922 a small and poor country of 4million is called upon to care for an additional one and a half million. Greece went bankrupt. There was an urgent need for external financial assistance to feed and clothe the refugees. The citizens of America responded positively. On the contrary, when the Greek ambassador of Greece to the League of Nations asked for a loan [1923], another representative humiliated him by saying "Apply to bankers, we are not financiers here. Nikos Kazantzakis was an important-infrequent coworker with Venizelos.

Shortly before the Treaty of Lausanne 1923 the Turkish authorities gave an order for the clergy to disappear in Asia Minor. On May 19, 1919, Mustafa Kemal set foot in Samsun and gave the order for mass operations against the population. During a one 2 week period in 1923, ¾ million Greek refugees were dumped like cattle from all manner of vessels at the harbors of Piraeus and Thessalonica. The head of the Red Cross Refugee Commission watched a mass of human misery disgorged in Thessalonica; 7000 men women and children packed like sardines on an overloaded ship: they came ashore, he said, in rags; hungry, sick, covered with vermin, hollow-eyed, exhaling the horrible odor of human filth, bowed with despair.

Kazantzakis is my Captain Michalis. In the introduction of the last temptation he himself tell us that he was much embittered in his life, while in Zorba we are told in the Caucasus there are thousands of our people in danger, let’s go and save them…..maybe we can’t…….the only way for salvation is to save others…….let’s go, may God be with us; God and the devil, Zorba added…..the maimed don’t get into heaven…….alone happy at night looking onto the Aegean sea with the moon streaming through the window and the sea sighing….Zorba from his death bed in Skopje had a letter delivered to Kazantzakis saying he had no regret, he’d done enough but then not enough…one lifetime is too little.

In Captain Michalis and as the priest descended one of his characters climbs the pulpit to proclaim brothers, we can liberate the homeland! Cretans rise up! Men, women and children, take a stone to throw at Souda. Let the dishonored one dissolve and the powerful of the world no longer envy it; otherwise we will not see freedom. Come, brothers, rise up, make your cross, pick up a stone and let's go! This has a similar force to the crashing of Zorba’s coal carrying aerial conveyer.

Nikos Kazantzakis was an obsessional warrior with an unquenchable fire at the center of a cosmic whirlpool; indestructible, passionate and patriotic Cretan, well known to the world, but then, not enough. He saw man with little to relate to but having the power to build a better world.


  1. My thanks are due to the International Society of Friends of Nikos Kazantzakis and its Greek Branch President, Sifis Micheloyiannis and Sophia Dalabeki General Secretary, as well as noting the work of Professor Constantine Fotiadis.
  2. Making peace for more than a million Greeks meant forced population exchange, akin to ethnic cleansing for which Greece never received reparations. History repeats with Germany’s failure to pay WWII reparations to Greece. Both periods reflect war on Hellenism.
  3. My gratitude also goes to Gingko a non-political, religiously neutral organization working to improve mutual understanding between the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the West. Gingko respects and celebrates diversity.
  4. I draw your attention to the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne and a recent publication They all made peace - what is peace? The 1923 Lausanne Treaty and the new imperial order edited by Jonathan Conlin & Ozan Ozavc.