zorba by the ocean

Books, like so many good things, require time.

Time to settle; time to soak. Time to be turned around and examined from every angle. Time to simply be remembered with a fond, wistful smile.

A particularly good book might occupy my thoughts for weeks. Years.

Decades.

Perhaps a lifetime.

“I took another track and went down towards the coast. Now and then, warm breezes laden with perfume reached me from nearby gardens. The earth had a rich smell, the sea was rippling with laughter, the sky was blue and gleaming like steel.

Winter shrivels up the mind and body of man, but then there comes the warmth which swells the breast. As I walked I suddenly heard loud trumpetings in the air. I raised my eyes and saw a marvellous spectacle which had always moved me deeply since childhood: cranes deploying across the sky in battle order, returning from wintering in a warmer country.

(…)

The unfailing rhythm of the seasons, the ever-turning wheel of life, the four facets of the earth which are lit in turn by the sun, the passing of life – all these filled me once more with a feeling of oppression. Once more there sounded within me, together with the cranes’ cry, the terrible warning that there is only one life for all men, that there is no other, and that all that can be enjoyed must be enjoyed here. In eternity no other chance will be given to us”

(Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek, p.183)

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1946 – zorba the greek ~ nikos kazantzakis

Reading Nikos Kazantzakis’ classic Zorba the Greek for the first time was like stumbling upon a canteen filled with fresh water after wandering, lost and thirsty in the desert for days.

My first impulse was to greedily devour the whole thing, to pour it over myself and revel in it without restraint. But, at the same, I know that once it’s gone, there won’t be any more.

It’s a special kind of painful ecstasy, reading a life-changing novel for the first time. With every page you turn, the looming terror of that final page grows stronger, more tangible.

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1940 – the man who loved children ~ christina stead

You’ve all seen the show Black Books, right?

In the first episode, one of the characters accidentally swallows The Little Book of Calm. Rather than choking to death, he absorbs the book into his system, where it makes him inherently calmer.

It’s difficult to explain (and, um, much more serious than Black Books) but I feel as if I’ve sort of absorbed Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children. It’s something I carry with me now; a part of me.

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2005 – on beauty ~ zadie smith

Have you ever read a novel that makes you feel absolutely certain it was written with you in mind? As if the author somehow possessed the ability to reach majestically across time and space to squeeze you gently on the shoulder to say this is for you.

That’s the way I felt this week, when I read Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.

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