Books: The Willing Spirit

NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS by Helen Kazantzakis. 589 pp. Simon & Schuster. $12.

For Nikos Kazantzakis, who died in 1957, the great temptation was asceticism. Drawn to the cold, solitary vigils of the spirit, the Greek poet and novelist struggled steadily to stay rooted to earth and passionately celebrated the vitality of life.

This enduring tension between worldliness and renunciation, so characteristic of Kazantzakis' novels, is persistently evident in his letters, which have now been collected by his wife and woven together into a very special sort of biography. More fragmentary than Report to Greco, Kazantzakis'...

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