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KAZANTZAKIS, Nikos

Zorba the Greek

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You’ve soon forgotten poor Bouboulina, Zorba,” I said, in a tone which was somewhat brutal for me.

Zorba was piqued and raised his voice.

“A fresh road, and fresh plans!” he cried. “I’ve stopped thinking all the time of what’s going to happen tomorrow. What’s happening today, this minute, that’s what I care about. I say: ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m sleeping.’ ‘Well, sleep well.’ ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m working.’ ‘Well, work well.’ ‘What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?’ ‘I’m kissing a woman.’ ‘Well, kiss her well, Zorba! And forget all the rest while you’re doing it; there’s nothing else on earth, only you and her! Get on with it!’”

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“No, you’re not free,” he said. “The string you’re tied to is perhaps no longer than other people’s. That’s all. You’re on a long piece of string, boss; you come and go, and you think you’re free, but you never cut the string in two. And when people don’t cut that string…” “I’ll cut it some day!” I said defiantly, because Zorba’s words had touched an open wound in me and hurt.

“It’s difficult, boss, very difficult. You need a touch of folly to do that; folly d’you see? You have to risk everything! But you’ve got such a strong head, it’ll always get the better of you. A man’s head is like a grocer; it keeps accounts: I’ve paid so much and earned so much and that means a profit of this much or a loss of that much! The head’s a careful little shopkeeper; it never risks all it has, always keeps something in reserve. It never breaks the string. Ah no! It hangs on tight to it, the bastard! If the string slips out of its grasp, the head, poor devil, is lost, finished! But if a man doesn’t break the string, tell me, what flavor is left in life? The flavor of chamomile, weak chamomile tea! Nothing like rum – that makes you see life inside out!”

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