Narrating the Life of a Subverted Saint: Kazantzakis’ initial title for Zorba and the parody of a genre* Καζαντζάκης

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This paper attempts a generic comparison between Kazantzakis’ most celebrated novel and the medieval genre of hagiography. With references to the original Life of Alexis and to other canonical hagiographical texts I demonstrate how the generic conventions
and the communicative purposes of hagiography are exploited in the dominant genre of the novel. Bakhtin’s theories on parody and speech genres will form the theoretical framework of the reading.
The title is one of the most efficient paratextual devices that facilitate the communication between author and reader. Nikos Kazantzakis had initially titled his famous novel Το συναξάρι του Ζορμπά (The Saint Life of Zorba) but finally selected the more ambivalent one, in its Greek version at least,1 Βίος και Πολιτεία του Αλέξη Ζορμπά (Life and Times of Alexis Zorba). As Roderick Beaton notes both titles are direct references to one of the most popular genres of Modern Greek literature, the Lives of Saints (Beaton, 1999:177). The authorial narrator also clearly presents the novel as a narration of a saint’s life, as a synaxari (Kazantzakis, 1973:12, 365):
Και ξαφνικά, χωρίς καθόλου να το ’χα στο νου μου, πήρα χαρτί, ξάπλωσα στις πυρωμένες πλάκες της ταράτσας κι άρχισα να γράφω το συναξάρι ετούτο του Ζορμπά… Θαρρείς κι είχα εγώ όλη την ευθύνη … να στερεώσω ακέριο το πρόσωπο του, το πρόσωπο του “Γέρο-
ντα” μου (Kazantzakis, 1973:365)…. free ebook (κατηγορία:  επιστημονικές μελέτες)

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