FOREWORD: Since the books I read shape what I think, and therefore what my mind spills onto this blog, I’ve decided to begin posting memorable quotes from books that have impacted me most during my travels in South America. Any book that wins this V.I.P status is due to its uniqueness, ability to turn your perspective upside down, and power to transport you to worlds never before imagined—which is really the point in losing yourself in fiction anyway. Below are a few such paragraphs from Zorba the Greek. According to my father, it is also a famous movie but I have not yet seen it.
“We are little grubs, Zorba, minute grubs on the small leaf of a tremendous tree. This small leaf is Earth. The other leaves are the stars that you see moving at night. We make our way on this little leaf examining it anxiously and carefully. We smell it; it smells good or bad to us. We taste it and find it eatable. We beat on it and it cries out like a living thing.
Some men—the more intrepd ones—reach the edge of the leaf. From there we stretch out, gazing into chaos. We tremble. We guess what a frightening abyss lies beneath us. In the distance we can hear the noise of the other leaves of the tremendous tree, we feel sap rising from the roots to our leaf and our hearts swell. Bent thus over the awe-inspiring abyss, with all our bodies and all our souls, we tremble with terror. From that moment begins….
I stopped. I wanted to say “from that moment begins poetry,” but Zorba would not have undertood.”
“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises. At one moment he is a glass of fresh water, the next your son bouncing on your knees or an enchanting woman, or perhaps merely a morning walk.”
“One night on a snow-covered Macedonian mountain a terrible wind arose. It shook the little hut where I had sheltered and tried to tip it over. But I had shored it up and strengthened it. I was sitting alone by the fire, laughing at and taunting the wind. ‘You won’t get into my little hut, brother! I shan’t open the door to you. You won’t put my fire out; you won’t tip my hut over!””
In these few words of Zorba’s I had understood how men should behave and what tone they should adopt when addressing powerful but blind necessity.”
“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 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 have to risk everything! 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 man doesn’t break the string, tell me, what flavor is left in life? The flavor of camomile, weak camomile tea!”