ODYSSEUS AND THE
"CAGE OF FREEDOM"
Although its initial edition, published in Athens in 1938, numbered only three hundred copies, The Odyssey by Nikos Kazantzakis attracted immediate attention. As a literary work, it was declared a daring sequel to the Homeric epic in a genre usually thought unsuitable to modern taste. Thematically, it was taken as Kazantzakis' master statement of his view of modern man. In Greece itself it aroused fierce controversy, strong echoes of which still reverberate. The academicians attacked its form, its idiomatic styling, and what they considered its heterodoxy.
The poem did not come as a complete surprise. Before its publication, it was well known that Kazantzakis had been preoccupied with it since 1925. Moreover, by 1938 the direction of his thinking and the versatility of his genius were familiar; novels, prose and poetic dramas, travelogues, philosophic disquisitions, and even translations of such works as Dante's Divine Comedy and Goethe's Faust had anticipated The Odyssey. As also had the known facts of his life, private and public. For Kazantzakis' own experience in many ways prefigured the adventures of his picaresque hero. When he had completed his formal education, having taken the degree of law from the University of Athens, Kazantzakis became a chronic traveller, restlessly moving through Europe, Asia, and Africa, in the process learning five modern languages to add to his Latin and modern and ancient Greek. Yet he also felt the need for withdrawal and contemplation, at one time spending two ascetic years on Mount Athos. And he was willing to submit to public life when his country needed him, by taking on the duties of Director General of the Ministry of Public Welfare at the end of World War I. Later, after the appearance of The Odyssey, he was to become for a brief, stormy period Minister of National Education; and in 1947 he was Director of Translations from the Classics for UNESCO.
The English reading public knew little or nothing of Kazantzakis before 1953, when his novel Zorba the Greek was published in English. The Greek Passion followed in 1954, and two years later came Freedom or Death. Although the last____________________