The FratricidesNikos Kazantzakis
Perhaps the least well known of Kazantzakis’ bleak beautiful epics, The Fratracides is as in-depth examination of the effects of oppression as I have discovered. The book is set in a mountain village in Greece during the Turkish occupation. While on the surface it is about a revolutionary faction and it’s resistance to the occupation and the villager’s resistance, and occasionally support, of that faction, the book also operates on several, more intriguing levels. It examines the different human responses to domination as clearly as any sociology book, but with characters, words, and images that worm their way around your head in a way no textbook ever could. The fatalism of the of the literally hungry violence-sick villagers, the power-hungry priest grabbing at straws, the zeal of the revolutionary leader, the sensual despair of the town Magdalene; the characters manage to function symbols of human reactions as well as fully dimensional people. Kazantzakis is the master of the life of the world vs. the life of faith dilemna and that dynamic most certainly plays out in this work, though in a different way than in most of his other writings. It is not just one person struggling with the meaning of faith, but a whole community embodying the various aspects of that particular drama. The Fratracides is, I would say, the hardest of Kazantzakis’ fictional writings in the sense that he gives the reader very little to hope for. But, when you stop to think about it, how appropriate. Occupation and violence are not necessarily situations in which hope is a facile option. The writing is solid; Kazantzakis has the profound ability to distill human experience emotion into dense stones that pave the villages and hills where the action takes place. The Fratricides is unique in it’s ability to be spiritual without being dogmatic, analytical without being dry, and thouroughly beautiful both in story and writing.
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