Real Fiction

Exploring the nexus of reading and writing


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Hermann Hesse and Nikos Kazantzakis

The struggle between the realm of the intellect and the realm of the senses.

Hermann Hesse (1887-1962)

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957)

Kazantzakis’s novel Zorba the Greek is based on a real person influential in Kazantzakis’s life. Zorba personifies the realm of the senses and the narrator (NK himself, apparently) is the young, formally educated but unworldly “scribbler” in whom Zorba tries to instill a direct understanding of the dance that is life.

In Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game Hesse shows the intellectual life, the life of the mind and of reason, is an insufficient life, an incomplete life.

The Glass Bead Game, sometimes titled Magister Ludi, was instrumental in gaining Hesse the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946. The Prize eluded Kazantzakis, although he was nominated several times and had influential supporters. He lost out to Albert Camus in 1957.

NK is the more passionate of these two writers, and I have a special place for him in my heart, where I think my soul may be located; and, I have a special place for Hesse in my head, where I think my mind may be located.

Here is a poem inspired by Nikos Kazantzakis and Zorba:

The Dance

Between man and woman
Between young and old
Between and among one’s many inner voices

Of the electron in its field of probabilities
Of the earth among its solar neighbors
Of the pen across this page

The Dance is the fundamental unit
The atom of the Ancient Greeks
And Zorba is Its Prophet –

“Did you say — Dance!?
Come on, my boy …”

NOTE: The final quote is from the movie ”Zorba the Greek” with Anthony Quinn famously playing the main character.

Source for bibliography of Hermann Hesse’s work
Source for bibliography of Nikos Kazantzakis’s work