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Opening new galleries with Zorba the Greek

June 14, 2012

Malia Palace, CreteMountains of Crete  Ever one to read in situ, I took Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel Zorba the Greek on holiday to Crete with me last week.  I have vague recollections of the film and first tried to read the book a few years ago but left off half way through.  Somehow reading it in situ enabled me to appreciate the narrative.  Being in the environment pulled me further into the descriptive passages and induced me to savour the story.

I noted many phrases and paragraphs which lend themselves to further thought, one of which is as follows:

‘We’re going to open a new gallery today,’ he said.  ‘I’ve found a beautiful seam!  Real black diamonds!’

I opened the Buddha manuscript, and I, too, worked my way into my own galleries. I wrote all day, and the more I progressed the freer I felt. (Kazantzakis:Zorba the Greek, Faber and Faber, 2000, page 83)

This set me to thinking about Julia Cameron’s idea of mining our seams of gold as explained in her book The Artist’s Way, and of the fact that many writers mine their lives and their memories for both fictional and non-fictional material.  A further passage in the book debates:

‘How the soul of man is transformed according to the climate, the silence, the solitude, or the company in which it lives!’ (Ibid, page 99)

After much deliberation I came to the conclusion that I travel to open galleries and mine memories from the deepest recesses of my soul.  I am fascinated by ancient Greek history and mythology and often include aspects of these in my writing.  Prior to departing for Crete I discovered (or should I say devoured) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.  Surprisingly, it is her first published novel, was ten years in the making and offers a refreshing account of The Iliad.  The quality of the prose is that of an accomplished writer. I look forward to reading more from this new novelist and recommend that you take a look at her work.

I leave you with this poem penned on arrival:


I wake with the dawn chorus,

steal two hours on the day,

fly across seven countries

to exchange them for an extra 20 degrees by mid-afternoon.


As I step onto Cretan soil,

I gaze at the meringue of mountains

which rise up to greet me,

feel pain dissolve from my muscles.


I swap dark woollens for pale cottons,

Yorkshire tea for pina coladas,

slip back into the 80s.


For seven days and seven nights

I absorb the sights, sounds and smells of Greece,

conjure Minoan memories from the place I once called home.


From → Reading

One Comment
  1. It’s along time since I’ve been to Crete but it looks just as beautiful as I remember. Like you Judith I love to read books that are connected to the places I’m travelling to and I couldn’t agree more that travel opens many ‘galleries’ – certainly for me, as a writer, there is nothing to compare with the inspiration of a new place

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