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Kazantzakis and Linguistic Revolution in Greek Literature

Kazantzakis and Linguistic Revolution in Greek Literature

Peter Bien
Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Kazantzakis and Linguistic Revolution in Greek Literature
    Book Description:

    Peter Bien focuses on Kazantzakis' obsession with the demotic, the language "on the lips of the people," showing how it governed his writing, his ambition, and his involvement in Greek politics and educational reform. Kazantzakis' obsession worked against him in hisOdysseyand found its natural vehicle only in his translation of Homer'sIliadand his novels,Zorba the Greek,The Last Temptation of Christ, andThe Greek Passion.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6733-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Prefatory Note
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 3-10)

    In choosing as my subject the demoticism of Kazantzakis, I hope to present this Greek writer in a much broader way than he is usually seen. Most people in the English-speaking world know Kazantzakis only from his novels, which represent just the last sixteen years of his fifty-one-year career, and they know the novels only in translation. Even Greeks and others who read his books in the original may be unaware of Kazantzakis’ earlier career and in particular of the role that the language question played in that career. My object therefore is really twofold: (1) to give a sense...


    • 1 The Language Question
      (pp. 13-34)

      What was, and is, the language question? It can be formulated most simply as follows: What shall be the language of the Greek state? The question became pressing during the Greek Enlightenment, which preceded and helped foment the War of Independence of 1821, as we shall see in some detail when we discuss the work of the chief representative of the Enlightenment, Adamantios Korais. It may seem self-evident that the language of any new state should be the one that its people speak. But the situation in Greece was, and is, immensely complicated by history, in particular (a) the glorious...

    • 2 Korais
      (pp. 35-63)

      I should like now to dwell upon what was happening among the Greeks themselves, thereby bringing us up to 1906, when Kazantzakis began his career, and introducing us in a more particularized fashion, by means of concrete examples, to the people and issues that formed the inevitable background to that career as far as the language question was concerned.

      The period with which we are Permarily involved is the whole of the nineteenth century and the end of the eighteenth, although there were some notable demoticist precursors much farther back than that. I cannot, of course, hope to give even...

    • 3 The Atticizers and Psiharis
      (pp. 64-90)

      Opposition continued after the Greek state was established, with the period 1830–1890 seeing constant pressure for further purification. The result was an increased distance between demotic andKatharevousa; an equal consequence was the growth of linguistic anarchy. The more people learned to write “correctly,” the greater the possibility of variations, mistakes, and solecisms. As Kazantzakis was to argue at the be ginning of the twentieth century, Greece by that time had acquired not one but hundreds ofkatharevousas.This growth of linguistic anarchy stimulated increasingly strident exhorta tions about correctness, and a tendency to offer Attic Greek as the...

    • 4 The Response
      (pp. 91-125)

      We must now trace what must be called the “phenomenon” of the response, for it was truly phenomenal. In the half-century following Psiharis’ appeal, Greece did indeed develop a literature, a poetry, a renown. This cultural florescence was so intimately connected with the linguistic and ideological program of the demotic movement that we can say—without risk of hyperbole, I believe—that it would have been unthinkable apart from that movement. Demoticism sparked an extraordinary period of literary creativity.

      To understand the response, we must first look back on the nineteenth century to see what elements were lying in wait,...

    • 5 Later Developments
      (pp. 126-146)

      Though the foregoing account of the spread and application of demotic circa 1890–1910 is filled with names, dates, and titles, I have tried to keep it simple and to limit myself to demoticism in its original, philological guise, though brief references to the movement’s wider implications in the political and educational realms have been unavoidable.

      These wider implications began to be consciously discerned before 1910, but I have delayed considering them, first because they become truly pronounced chiefly after this date, and, second, because I wished to give a sense of demoticism as a relatively uncom plicated phenomenon, drawing...


    • 6 Initial Development and Activism
      (pp. 149-203)

      INITIAL DEVELOPMENT, 1906–1909 Kazantzakis was not born with his extreme demoticism; he developed it during his first few years in Athens in response to the people and spirit he encountered there. He used demotic for his first published work, the romance Ophiskai Krino (Snake and Lily)but admitted puristic forms as well, as can be seen in the title. The distance of this book’s language from the model set by Psiharis can be appreciated from phrases such as the following: Kτ από τά χείλη ∑ου στάσσει . . . ϊμέρος

      τών Μαγνητών

      ’Απάνω στά χείλη των ωραίων γυναικών...

    • 7 The Odyssey, Iliad, and Other Writings
      (pp. 204-261)

      I have perhaps given the impression that Kazantzakis’ major energies during the period 1920–1938 went into dictionaries, journalism, and textbooks. This is far from true; I merely wished to indicate the frustrations plaguing his manifold attempts to witness for demotic. The period is rich politically, religiously, and artistically, for in it we see Kazantzakis’ flaring attraction to Russia (followed by partial disillu sion), his Buddhism,The Saviors of God, the novels Toda RabaandLe Jardin des Rochers(both written in French), and translations of theDivine Comedyand Part One ofFaust.

      But from 1925 onward, everything took...

  7. Epilogue
    (pp. 262-264)

    I have offered a necessarily subjective—and perhaps arbitrary—appraisal of Kazantzakis’ career in its relation to the language question. Whether his unbending demoticist extremism was admirable or just obstinate, whether the various works were affected for ill or for gain, are judgments depending ultimately on individual taste. Perhaps, when all is said and done, we must assign Kazantzakis’ language to what Seferis calls “a purism of the left” and recognize that it displays some of the “plethora of sound, the rigidity of expression . . . , the endless multicompounded conjured-up adjectives” that the poet deems characteristic of that...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-278)
  9. Index
    (pp. 279-291)