Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Piraeus tavern

Piraeus tavern. Place on Crete where the Boss meets Zorba. A chance encounter throws together the two protagonists, and readers immediately see the difference in their outlooks on life. Zorba is a reckless adventurer who travels where his heart takes him; the Boss is a sensitive thinker, afraid to strike out on his own. The location is important because it establishes a motif that is thematically central to the novel: the lure of the sea, a metaphor for the unknown that awaits every traveler through life.

The Boss’s hut

The Boss’s hut. Seaside shack in which the Boss and Zorba live as they work at mining lignite. While Zorba supervises the miners and works beside them, the Boss frequently remains at the hut writing a book about Buddha. At the end of each day, the two frequently converse about issues such as God, human immortality, the wisdom of activity versus contemplation, the place of women and family in men’s lives, and other philosophical and moral issues.

Significantly, the hut is set beside the sea, a central symbol in the novel. Both Zorba and the Boss recognize the mystery posed by the sea, on which hundreds of generations of men have gone to seek adventure, fortune, and happiness. The warm breezes that blow north across the sea from Africa suggest both the source of human life and the life-giving forces of nature—concepts that the Boss struggles to understand.


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Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like most of Kazantzakis's novels, Zorba the Greek is dominated by a single character whose story dramatizes the struggle of "the...

(The entire section is 327 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As a rule, Kazantzakis is more concerned with exploring questions of philosophy in his novels than he is with specific social issues....

(The entire section is 181 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The character of Zorba is reminiscent of several of the major comic characters in Western literature. He has been compared to Shakespeare's...

(The entire section is 97 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Captain Michales in Freedom or Death (1953) is but another representation of the Existential Hero whose story is central to all of...

(The entire section is 437 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

English-speaking audiences know Zorba not only from the translation of the novel, but also from the highly successful motion picture (1964)...

(The entire section is 80 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Anapliotes, Giannes. The Real Zorbas and Nikos Kazantzakis. Translated by Lewis A. Rich-ards. Amsterdam: A. M. Hakker, 1978. A comprehensive history of Kazantzakis’ friendship and adventures with the real Zorba, George Zorba, in 1917, during World War I, when they were engaged in coal-mining and tree-harvesting operations.

Bien, Peter. “The Mellowed Nationalism of Kazantzakis’ Zorba the Greek.” Review of National Literatures 5, no. 2 (Fall, 1974): 113-136. Discusses Zorba’s character as an uncommitted patriot who admires Cretan food, oil, wine, and women but does not want to sacrifice his life for Crete.

Elsman, Kenneth R., and John V. Knapp. “Life-Span Development in Kazantzakis’s Zorba the Greek.” International Fiction Review 11, no. 1 (Winter, 1984): 37-44. Analyzes Kazantzakis’ novel within its social and political contexts and examines the different transformations and developments of the novel’s characters.

Givelski, Paskal. “From Homer to Kazantzakis.” Macedonian Review 22, no. 2 (1992): 147-150. A useful review and analysis of the connection between Kazantzakis’ tragic figures. Gives background to aid in understanding characters in Zorba the Greek, such as the village Widow and Pavli, both of whom meet their ends tragically.

Levitt, Morton. “The Companion of Kazantzakis: Nietzsche, Bergson and Zorba.” In The Cretan Glance: The World and Art of Kazantzakis. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980. An excellent discussion of Zorba’s philosophy as encompassing elements from Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung.