Although a national hero in his beloved homeland of Crete, Kazantzakis has failed to achieve the recognition in England that he so richly deserves. Novelist, playwright and journalist; disciple of Nietzsche, Bergson and Buddha; admirer of Christ and Lenin; praised by Thomas Mann, Albert Schweitzer and Albert Camus, his works are the external expression of an inward cry that seeks answers to the most profound questions of existence. However, unlike the majority of God-fearing viewers that recommended that Kazantzakis be anathematised from the human race, I did not find it offensive. On the contrary, although not particularly religious myself, I was profoundly attracted to this human Jesus, painfully struggling as he was between an acceptance of his own tragic, divine destiny and the temptation to bypass that suffering and live a normal, comfortable life, but consequently fail in his mission. Despite my discomfort with the American Dafoesque portrayal, I felt this to be a highly positive account of Christ, far more accessible and empathetic than that found in the Gospels.
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In , he lost the Nobel prize to Albert Camus by one vote. One vote. Most people who hear about "The last temptation of Christ" immediately think of the Scorsese movie with Willem Dafoe as Jesus - and other equally atrociously miscast actors - a film that was meant to come across as scandalous and provocative, in the typical Hollywood low-brow fashion.
I never saw the movie and probably never Nikos Kazantzakis - was one of the greatest Greek writers of the last century. I never saw the movie and probably never will.
I loved many parts of the book. The language is very poetic, and I found that NK was great at reproducing the spiritual fervor of the time in Palestine, the social acceptance of visions, miracles, prophecies, and overall a very intense and palpable spiritual reality. In short, all that we have lost today in the West. Someone will argue "for good and for bad", but my opinion is that it is only for the bad.
Our loss. We have shrunk from a large, human dimension to the dimension of things. Fascinating theory, although probably wrong. Sounds more like a way to formalize the mental state of modern westerners as "healthy and better", which is obviously extremely arguable. Back to the book.
No, he is not. I will summarize here the opinion of Lord Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and one of my intellectual heroes. Lord Williams says: "One of the things that makes us human is that we can allow the divine light to flood us and fill us, or as some theologians say, we can grow into the divine image. Where NK.
Still Lord Williams about this book: "They said NK tried to portray a Jesus who was more human and relatable than the one in the Gospel. In some ways, in trying so hard to make Jesus more "human", he created a Jesus at least as difficult and remote as the Jesus of the classical theology".
And this: "The notion that Jesus is in a state of constant inner flux about his identity and mission In the gospel, the tension comes from someone who knows who he is and again and again he needs to confront the cost and the consequences of that.
In this book, Jesus is not just someone who has a doubt here and there, and therefore is more relatable. He is a man in constant, unceasing spiritual pain, scared of his own shadow and insecure about pretty much everything. He lives a life of torment, and even during his short public career, he is constantly shocked in front of the miracles he can make, always reluctant with regards to his mission.
The communion of Jesus with God is portrayed as a curse almost a mental illness rather than a loving relationship. Rather than Jesus being highly educated in the Scriptures as he must have been, and a confident leader, God seems to be using this poor, sickly and bizarre fool as a mere instrument for his plans. Despite what the Hollywood movie tried to imply, the real "last temptation" of Christ in this narrative is not sex, but domesticity. While on the cross, Jesus dreams of being old, married and with kids and grandkids, as his final temptation.
Another issue I have with this work is that Mary is presented as a very embittered woman, a mother with a heart closed on itself, constantly thinking about her own misfortunes rather than the good of Joseph and Jesus. As for the movie, Scorsese wanted to bring this peculiar Christ to his audience in his modern guise, as an unsettling, tortured Jesus, unsure whether his inner voices are divine or demonic, and torn between his love of the flesh and his need for the spirit.
Like he demonstrated with his latest movie "Silence" as well, Scorsese seems to be drawn towards extremely contrived versions of Christianity, that seem to lack spontaneity and heart. And, of course, for him there needs to be sex and violence.
But most striking is how passive and inept he is and how constantly unsure he is of his divine calling. And without Judas he would be lost?!
Yes, one of the many inventions of NK is the role of Judas in the story of Jesus. Judas is the strongest apostle, the only one who is able to give strength and courage to Jesus, and in many instances he turns out to be the one who actually leads Jesus.
Quite a weird, interesting take.
The Last Temptation of Christ
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