The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Odysseus, king of Ithaca, subdues a revolt against him soon after his return from the Trojan War. Growing discontent with the routine obligations of lawgiver, husband, and father, he builds a ship, forms a crew of similarly individualistic characters, and begins another journey—of no return. In Sparta, Odysseus tempts Helen to abandon, once again, her life of sumptuous boredom and accompany him. The shipmates next anchor in Crete, where, outraged by the disparity of wealth between the hedonistic court elite, presided over by the indolent King Idomeneus, and the impoverished kingdom, Odysseus leads an uprising of slaves and invading barbarians. Helen becomes the lover of one of the Dorian invaders and chooses to remain in Crete, to rear her child—a symbol for Kazantzakis of the golden age of Greece yet to come—when the conquering shipmates sail on.

In contrast to the triumphant overthrow of the Cretan court, Odysseus and his crew next join forces with revolutionaries and barbarians in Egypt to fight against a much larger and stronger army, at whose hands they meet bloody defeat, barely surviving. They become prisoners in an Egyptian dungeon. Odysseus eventually manages to terrify the superstitious Pharaoh, who banishes him into the desert. Having observed the corruption and injustice of various civilizations, Odysseus determines to create a type of utopian society for the ranks of the lawless and dejected who had followed him into exile, and for his...

(The entire section is 583 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bien, Peter. Kazantzakis: Politics of the Spirit. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989. First of a two-part study, spanning the start of Kazantzakis’ career in 1906 to the publication of The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel in 1938.

Kazantzakis, Nikos. The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. Translated by Kimon Friar. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1958. Friar was viewed by Kazantzakis as a collaborator more than a translator, and he bears a major share of the responsibility for the success of The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel in the English-speaking world. Friar’s introduction and synopsis are among the clearest and most meaningful available.

Lea, James F. Kazantzakis: The Politics of Salvation. Foreword by Helen Kazantzakis. University: University of Alabama Press, 1979. Examines Kazantzakis in the context of his age and culture, provides a general explication of the evolution of Kazantzakis’ political thought and his approach to history.

Levitt, Morton. The Cretan Glance: The World and Art of Nikos Kazantzakis. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980. Deals with the work of the last two phases of Kazantzakis’ long and varied career—with his great epic poem, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, and with the novels that Kazantzakis wrote afterward.

Prevelakis, Pandelis. Nikos Kazantzakis and His Odyssey: A Study of the Poet and the Poem. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961. First biographical study of Kazantzakis by his longtime friend, which integrates the motifs of The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel with the events of the poet’s life.