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Reviews 155 Reagan's "we're-all-in-the-know-here" wink—an approach, that is to say, that relies on vague generalization and conjecture while conveniently side-stepping consistent argument, explanation, and support. For example, she suggests that "for many of us nowadays the 'Writer' and the 'Reader' are always 'in process,' " but neither examines what that term means nor how it is significant to Moutzan-Martinengou's text. In similarly flippant fashion, she asserts that if one thinks of the text as "simply a construct or a rhetorical situation . . . previous notions of text and writer become questionable" (77), but does not examine what those "previous notions" are, nor how they are called into question. Hence, while there is much of interest in Moutzan-Martinengou's story, it is regrettable that her work has not been made available in a more sensitively edited volume. Rebecca Saunders University of Wisconsin Peter Bien, Kazantzákis: Politics of the Spirit. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1989. Pp. xxiv + 318. $29.95. Perhaps no major writer of our time has been treated by critical opinion with so much misunderstanding and distortion as has Nikos Kazantzákis. From the beginning of his career down to the present, inaccurate or intentionally distorted information, coupled with a limited basis for understanding the writer and his work, has often resulted in hostile, erroneous, and frequently self-contradictory conclusions. This has been especially true in Greece, where partisan passions and personal biases often dominate "critical" evaluation. A contributing factor in Kazantzákis's case has been the nature of his workits vastness and its protean, exceptionally demanding nature. As a result, most critics of Kazantzákis have been unable to approach the subject in the complete, in-depth manner that the Kazantzakian personality and creation require. To compound the problem, many of the existing works of criticism, together with the widespread oral lore about Kazantzákis, have either misinformed or misdirected the readers of his work. On the other hand, most positive views of Kazantzákis, often in the tone of paeans, have been lacking in method and substance. Critical studies that correct this situation have been sorely needed. Happily, Peter Bien's Kazantzákis: Politics of the Spirit is a significant contribution toward fulfilling this need. Based on painstaking research, this is a major study that provides an admirably woven "life" of Kazantzákis and his evolution as thinker and artist. A central perspective in presenting the writer's life in this volume is the "political" nature of Kazantzákis and the impact of his "politics" on his life and work. The distinction between Kazantz ákis's temporal/societal and his eternal/eschatological politics (his "politics 156 Reviews of the spirit") is brilliantly sustained throughout the study. And the political perspective that is established becomes an eminently useful key in both interpreting and evaluating the writer's work. Lucidity and cogent application of biographical data to interpretive discussion of both the life and work are among the many strengths of Professor Bien's style and method. A detailed chronology at the outset, extensive notes that augment the discussion in each chapter, together with a thorough and broadly ranging bibliography, further enrich this study. Kazantzákis's relationships with the philosophical, spiritual, and political masters that influenced his thought—especially Nietzsche, Bergson, Buddha, Christ, and Lenin—are thoroughly explored and documented by Professor Bien. Also, the key work Askitiki (Spiritual Exercises) and the confounding question of Kazantzákis' "nihilism" are incisively discussed, with challenging interpretations being offered. To illustrate: ... if we allow the oeuvre (not to mention the life) to "comment" on Askitiki, we will be encouraged to see in that work not absolute nihilism but rather [a] dialectic between effort and noneffort, substance and abyss, with the balance tipping toward Responsibility. In Christ Recrucified and The Last Temptation particularly, there is a promised renewal after dissolution: all is erased, yet we do not linger in Nada; we carry on ... , carry on. There are times when the nihilistic element is more pronounced, as in the play Buddha, yet even this is a creation issuing from Kazantzákis's ongoing energy, not from resignation. If Askitikfs true meaning is projected...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 155-157
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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