The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel

From Academic Kids

Odyssey, poem of Greek writer, poet and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis, the largest of his works.

Kazantzakis himself considered it to be his most important work. He started working on it in 1924, after he returned to Crete from Germany. Before finally publishing it in 1938 he had drafted seven different versions.

The "Odyssey" is divided in 24 rhapsodies (see rhapsody), as Homer's Odyssey, and consists of 33333 17-syllable verses.

Kazantzakis' Odyssey begins when Odysseus (Ulysses) returns to Ithaca and decides to delve into new adventures, as he very soon becomes unsatisfied with his quiet family life. First he travels to Sparta, where he abducts Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta Menelaus, whose abduction by Paris had led to the Trojan war. He goes to Crete, where a conspiracy dethrones the king. There he abandons Helen and continues to Egypt, where again a workers uprising takes place. He leads an aesthetic's life for a short period and then he leaves again for another place where he founds his own city, called Utopia. The city gets destroyed by a cosmogonic earthquake, however, it passes to a state of "complete freedom". Odysseus meets Managis (an incarnation of Buddha), Kapetan Enas (English: Captain One), alias Don Quixote and a fisherman, alias Christ. At the end he sails to the South Pole where he dies and becomes immaterial.

The "Odyssey" represents Kazantzakis' ideology and metaphysical concerns, as well as the main traits of his character: his heroic pessimism, his antirationalism, his loneliness and - finally - his nihilism. The central pattern is the denial, the demolition of a goal with a new denial, the struggle, not to reach a goal, but for the sake of the struggle itself, freedom as the denial of the idea of freedom, the glorification of the void.

The "Odyssey" has not been received enthusiastically by the public. The size of the work, the difficult language and the unlikeable character of this modern Odysseus (an amoral and lonely desperado) have been the main reasons. Regardless, some consider the "Odyssey" to be a fascinating poetic creation. They argue that Kazantzakis managed to infuse the work with the sum of his experiences and the knowledge acquired through his reflection and aestheticism.


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