Nikos Kazantzakis thoughts (from his letters)
I am currently reading Nikos Kazantzakis’ book A biography based on his Letters by Helen Kazantzakis, and despite the fact that I find the book a little melodramatic, I must admit the guy had a life more than interesting. He was a world traveller, he considered himself poor, he enjoyed simple but amazing food and the Romanian writer Panait Istrati was one of his dearest friends.
I am half way through the book, and some of his thoughts could easy go as life lessons.
- On human being
“It is not human beings that interest me, but the flame that consumes human being.” This brief sentence which I have come upon in recent months sheds light upon my spirit in a perfect way and helps me a great deal in the decision and the scope of the decision. All that is monstrous and inhuman about me, as well as all the superhuman impulse sweeping through me – all the Damonisches [demonic] – is explained perfectly by this sentence. My contact with people and ideas, my distance from them, become comprehensible in these terms. And through all the thronging details of my own individual life and of the totality, I can in this was distinguish the “Red Line” which I am following and which is following me.
- On death and man
[Helen:] Minor adversities slipped over Nikos, barely grazing his skin. The disappearance of Marigo – the mother he adored, who was not prematurely aged of sufferiong from any long illness- touched him to the quick.
“These days, I am incurably sad. One of the greatest unhappinesses that could rend my heart has happened to me. I keep strong hold of myself in order not to cry aloud. Though I know that only the cry of a wild beast could ease me”, he wrote to Prevelakis.
[Helen:] Nikos was suffering, but he did not dare to admit the cause of it. To utter or write it would be in some way to admit it. Death, deaths, death – how often had he talked to us about it in his letters. Alas, one admits death only for oneself, never for the people one loves.
- On obstacles
“blessed be the obstacle!” he cried out at that point, exasperated by all these venomous turns in succession. “blessed be adversity, for it allows us to judge our own souls and find the worthy!”
- On time
Time is soul, nothing more. I have never wanted a more daring companion than you. One word perfectly coveys our rhythm: Ortsa [Onward]!
- On future
Madrid, Feb 28, 1933
I tell you this: Never worry about the future; it’s useless from a practical point of view. We only lose the present. The future may not exist; or something may happen that will suddenly change everything. The right thing is to exploit the present moment to its very marrow.
If I were to think about what’s to become of me tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, I would be nothing all day. And being – a force de forger [by the very act of forging] – what I am today makes me unafraid of the future. A simple philosophy, and yet it’s no mere sentiment. It is also a system that can be taught. If you reflect a great deal on all this, you will make it your own blood and action.
- On women
Madrid, march 15, 1933 (letter to his friend Panait Istrati)
Women (you know this well) have another universe – material, moral, intellectual. Their spirit is laden, all rippling with flesh. They are innocent, even their greatest infidelities (especially then), for they obey a subterranean drive, pre-human and extraordinarily profound. They are always faithful to this drive and, to be sure, therein lies their grand, sad virtue. Man can sometimes be free, in a moment of heroism and intoxication; woman – never. Freedom such this (which in a man is honor) would be for her insubordination to her destiny – a vice. () and also: mustn’t we pardon everything in a woman who has given us a single moment of happiness?