Nikolaos Kazantzakis was born in Heraklion in 1883. Novelist, theatrical writer, poet and interpreter, he is thought of as one of the most important spiritual figures of the 20th century both in Greece and abroad. After becoming a professor in Law at the University of Athens, he left for Paris to continue his studies. At the outbreak of the Balkan Wars, he volunteered for the Greek Army and served close to Prime Minister Venizelos. Following the end of the war, he traveled to various European, Asian and African countries. Written in 1915, his diary mentions that his work was mainly influenced by the writings of Homer, Dante and Bergson.
The influence of Homer is also visible in his epic poem Odyssey. After fifteen years of revisions (1924-1938), he published 33.333 verses. Kazantzakis’ Odyssey begins from the point where Homer left it. He uses some of Homer’s heroes in order to help the reader understand the transportation from one era to the next.
In 1948, having seen most of Greece, he decided to leave for Antibes, France where he stayed to continue his work. Other important pieces of his work are ‘Zorba the Greek’, ‘Freedom or Death’, his autobiography ‘Report to Greco’ and ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ for which he was excommunicated from the Greek Orthodox Church and got banned from the Roman Catholic Church, due to its controversial theological references.
Kazantzakis died in 1957 in Germany, after suffering from Asian flu, which he got during his last trip to China. A few days later he was buried in one of the bastions of the Venetian fort of Iraklion, at Tapia Martinego. His grave bears the inscription: “I hope nothing, I fear nothing. I am free”