The eggs had already been eaten, shells and all. Now Captain Michales with a blow from his fist, smashed the pottery egg-cups, and distributed them to his guests to eat. Bertódolus was terrified, took his piece and clung breathless to a cask. With goggling eyes he watched the Cretans at his feet bit their bits of clay and chew them until they became sand and grit, which they swallowed with a snigger.
There are three sorts of men, Bertódolus slowly explained to himself: those who eat eggs without the shells; those who eat eggs with the shells; and those who gobble them up with the shell and the egg-cups as well. Those of the third kind are called Cretans.
(Nikos Kazantzakis: Freedom and Death)
Image Credit: Kazantzakis Museum via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0
Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakis: A Book Review
Captain Michales is a wild man. His own family calls him the Wild Boar; and when he invites his companions to one of his drinking bouts – which often last for days – not only they dare not to say no, they dare not to stop drinking either, not even if it makes them miserably sick.
Even so, Captain Michales is no wilder than his country, Crete.
Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel, Freedom and Death, is set at the end of 19th century when Crete was still a – reluctant – part of the Ottoman Empire. The island saw a series of rebellions against Turkish rule throughout the 19th century before eventually it became independent and finally united with Greece in the 20th.
Kazantzakis himself was born in Megalokastro (today’s Heraklion) in 1883 and in his autobiographical book, Report to Greco, he hinted that the figure of Captain Michales was inspired by his own father: in the novel he’s describing the world that he grew up in.
A harsh and chaotic world.
Relations between the two groups of inhabitants of the island, the Greeks and Turks, are turbulent to say the least: ethnically motivated murder is a daily occurrence, family vendettas drag out for decades and law is practically non-existent. This forms the background of the novel, which is a story of friendship, jealousy, murder and vengeance, embedded in the larger story of the fight for Cretan independence.
The hero, Captain Michales, is a larger than life figure from the town of Megalokastro. The other chief characters are his Turkish blood brother and at the same time enemy, Nuri Bey; Nuri’s wife Eminé, who strikes passion in more than one man’s heart; Captain Michalis’s extended family, his rivals, his friends and neighbours in Megalokastro; not to mention the Pacha in charge of the island and the spiritual leader of the Christians, the Metropolitan.
In addition to the actual plot line, the novel is like a caleidoscope of colour about life in Megalokastro in that particular moment, strongly emanating the atmosphere of the time and place – for Kazantzakis writing it must have been like reliving his childhood.
It is a memorable book, but brutal: brutal like the hero, and brutal like the times and the country in which he lived. Not for the faint hearted.
Captain Michales stretched out his hand and raised the severed head by the hair like a banner. A wild light haloed his face, which was filled with an inhuman joy. Was it pride, god-like defiance, or contempt of death? Or limitless love for Crete? Captain Michales roared:
For the past few days, the row about whether a certain politician who broke the lockdown rules by travelling to visit family at some 200 miles’ distance (for childcare reasons) should resign.
In the circumstances I don’t believe that his reason for travelling was acceptable; but that’s just my personal opinion. What I do know for a fact on the other hand is that my family made sacrifices in the interest of public health instead of doing what was the best for us (as I believe did many others!) – while this mother****** did the exact opposite. Ergo, he should resign.
Every exit strategy that is discussed by governments, scientists, etc. have a common feature – that we’ll have no fun this year. Foreign or possibly even domestic holidays will not be worth taking; restaurants, museums, pools, places of fun will be the last things to reopen.
It sucks. But for most of us, there’s always next year.
Most of us; not all. Spare a thought for those who are terminally ill and this is their last spring/summer when they could have been doing something they wanted to do before their death.
An e-mail from my airline regarding my upcoming holiday flight – the one we postponed from April – left me in the quandary: do I transfer the flight to July (my only remaining free holiday time), do I accept the voucher that I can’t use and try to swindle my way round the fact that it’s not transferable, or do I sit tight and hope that the airline will cancel the flight and I can get my money back?!
On the subject of holiday flights: I saw the following video a while ago, and probably you all saw it by now… but just in case somebody missed out, something to cheer you up!
This summer it’ll be five years ago that I visited Santorini for what then I thought was the first but now suspect was also the only time. I didn’t know the poetry of Odysseas Elytis then even though he had won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1979 and I did – twice! – graduated in literature. Admittedly, neither of those degrees was in Greek literature but you don’t study literature, in any language, in a vacuum, and my ignorance of a Nobel Prize winning poet seems preposterous in retrospect.
Hills are a natural choice as locations for some of the most beautiful structures mankind has ever erected: castles and temples, statues and palaces, lighthouses and crosses – I’m sure you all can think of many stunning examples. Today, in response to Ailsa’s weekly travel theme Hills on her blog Where’s My Backpack, I thought I’d share with you some of the hills I had the good fortune to climb in the Mediterranean. And I chose these particular hills for one reason: what people chose to build on them.
The Old Town of Toledo
The old town of Toledo was built on a hill which is almost fully encircled by the River Tajo. This view shows the Roman bridge across the river with the Alcázar of Toledo topping the crest of the hill. For this view alone, Toledo will always be one of my favourite cities.
Today, a trip down memory lane – in more than one sense. First, the last time I saw the place we’re going to visit (when I took the photos) was in 1988 – I hazard the guess that a number of you weren’t even born then. Second, this is (or was then) a place forgotten by time and the world. And finally… photos from thirty years ago: look at their quality! That is, their lack of it (admittedly not helped by the scanner).
Since so many of you seem to like black & white pictures from around the Mediterranean… 🙂
No pictures of the Acropolis, I’m afraid, because – would you credit it! – on the day we forgot the camera. On the other hand, sacrilegiously, I dared to turn Santorini into black & white. Continue reading “Greece in Black & White”→
“The most expensive lunch I’ve ever had in my life,” is how my husband refers to our visit to the island of Santorini – possibly the most photographed tourist destination on Earth – in the summer of 2013. The lunch in question, ferry tickets included, cost us some four hundred pounds. “But it was worth every penny,” he adds.
What kind of a book would a chain-smoking former Special Operations Executive officer write? A man who at 18 had thought he had nothing better to do but to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople with a volume of English verse and Horace’s Odes in his pocket? A man who felt equally at home in shepherds’ huts and in aristocratic palaces?…What kind of book?!
And English readers, who know exactly whom I’m talking about, here answer in unison: a travel book, of course.