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Nikos Kazantzakis: Ο Τελευταίος Πειρασμός (UK: The Last Temptation; US: The Last Temptation of Christ)

As with Βιος και Πολιτεία του Αλέξη Ζορμπά (Zorba the Greek), this book is best known to non-Greeks as the Martin Scorsese film and, more particularly, the controversy around the film. Many people objected to the film. Many of them had not, of course, seen the film. You can make up your mind about the film. It is a fairly faithful though somewhat simplified version of the book. The book had its problems as well, as it was condemned by many (particularly those who had not read it), banned by the Catholic Church and Kazantzakis was excommunicated.

It is not too difficult to see why religious people objected to both the book and the film. Kazantzakis gives a portrait of Jesus as a man and not as a god. He is shown as a simple carpenter, practising his profession rather than seeking the road to salvation. As a human, he is subjected to the temptations that humans are subjected to, including, of course, sex. He is also subjected to the last temptation, that of leading a normal life and not being the Messiah, which nearly gets to him. If you are a Christian, you will have your own views, which will be coloured by your religion more than by literary considerations. For those of us who are not religious, the book is an interesting read but Jesus is just another fictitious character, even if, as has been said, he is based on Kazantzakis’ own doubts, and there are more interesting fictitious characters.

Publishing history

First published 1955 by Difros, Athens
First English translation 1955 by Simon and Schuster
Translated by Peter Bien