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(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As he does in virtually all of his novels, Kazantzakis uses his story as a means of dramatizing philosophical issues. His characters openly explore the existentialist predicament: man, confronting a meaningless universe, must choose to create ends for himself or drift aimlessly toward a meaningless death.

In Zorba the Greek, Kazantzakis examines this situation through a series of contrasts, established primarily in the characters who populate the story. The narrator, known affectionately as "the Boss," is an ascetic who has sought to escape the harshness of the world by retreating to a study of Buddhism. He is linked through strange coincidence in a business partnership with the flamboyant, excessive, earthy, womanizing jack-of-all-trades Alexis Zorba. Their contrasting approaches to...

(The entire section is 254 words.)