Kazantzakis, Nikos (nēˈkôs käˌzändzäˈkēs) [key], 1883?–1957, Greek writer, b. Crete. After obtaining a law degree he studied philosophy under Henri Bergson in Paris and traveled widely in Europe and Asia. Attracted to Communism early in life, he grew disillusioned with revolutionary materialism and rationalism. As the Greek minister of public welfare (1919–27) and minister of state (1945–46) he vainly tried to reconcile the factions of left and right. Intensely poetic and religious, Kazantzakis wrote interpretative works on Bergson and Nietzsche. His most ambitious work, The Odyssey, a Modern Sequel (1938, tr. 1958), a verse tale, begins where Homer's Odyssey ends; the new adventures of Odysseus explore the worldviews of Jesus, Buddha, Lenin, Nietzsche, and others. Zorba the Greek (1946, tr. 1952) reflects enormous exuberance for life, and Christ Recrucified (1938, tr. The Greek Passion, 1953) is a darker tale of good and evil in which a modern man reenacts a Christlike destiny. Other works include The Last Temptation of Christ (1951, tr. 1960) and The Poor Man of God (1953, tr. Saint Francis, 1962). He also translated many classics into modern Greek.
See biography by H. Kazantzakis (1968); studies by P. Prevelakis (1958, tr. 1961) and Peter Bien (1989).