Friday, February 18, 2011

Nikos Kazantzakis: Feb. 18, 1885--Oct. 26, 1957

Unlike some, Kazantzakis tells the reader from the beginning that his biography of Saint Francis is partly a creative or imaginative work.

From Kazantzakis' Preface to Saint Francis:


"If I have omitted many of Francis' sayings and and deeds and
if I have altered others, and added still others which did not take
place but which might have taken place, I have done so not out of
ignorance or impudence or irreverence, but from a need to match
the Saint's life with his myth, bringing that life as fully into accord
with its essence as possible.

Art has this right, and not only the right but the duty to subject
everything to the essence. It feeds upon the story, then assimilates it
slowly, cunningly, and turns it into a legend.

While writing this legend which is truer than truth itself, I was overwhelmed by love, reverence, and admiration fro Francis, the hero and great martyr. Often large teardrops smeared the manuscript; often a hand hovered before me in the air, a hand with an eternally renewed wound: someone seemed to have driven a nail through it, seemed to be driving a nail through it for all eternity.

Everywhere about me, as I wrote, I sensed the Saint's invisible presence; because for me Saint Francis is he model of the dutiful man, the man who by means of ceaseless, supremely cruel struggle succeeds in fulfilling our highest obligation, something higher even than morality or truth or beauty: the obligation to transubstantiate the matter which God entrusted to us, and turn it into spirit."

Nikos Kazantzakis

I think Ford Madox Ford expressed a somewhat similar opinion when several friends and acquaintances suggested that a number of his reminiscences and stories didn't happen the way he said that they did. Ford responded that he was a writer, not an historian.

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