Saint Francis by Nikos Kazantzakis ; Translated from the Greek by P.A. Bien
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New York : Simon and Schuster, 1962. Second printing. Hardcover. 379 pages ; 21 cm. Tattered $5.95 dust jacket. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
Saint Francis is a passionate and highly personal vision of the life of Francis of Assisi, the poor man of God, by the late Nikos Kazantzakis, author of The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, The Last Temptation of Christ, Zorba the Greek, The Greek Passion and Freedom or Death.
Nikos Kazantzakis' books transcend the usual limitations of the novel: they go beyond the mere telling of an exciting story and enter the sublime world of the spirit. Their themes are powerful and heroic, for above all they are concerned with the struggle between good and evil in man's soul, and with the ability of ordinary men, at all times in history, to leave behind their daily occupations and their pleasures and to dedicate themselves to a noble ideal, often at the cost of their lives. In Freedom or Death, Kazantzakis wrote of the mortal combat between Greek and Turk on his native island of Crete; in The Last Temptation of Christ, he wrote of the Saviour's spiritual passion and agony as He prepares His own martyrdom.
Jn Saint Francis, Kazantzakis has re-created the story of Christianity's best known, most human, and most beloved saint—Francis of Assisi.
It is a historical novel, and the reader will grasp in it all the miseries and glory of medieval Italy. But Kazantzakis has not limited himself to the retelling of this well known story. He has tried to show us Saint Francis as a person, tempted by the life that is offered to him and the comforts of his home, but driven by his own restless spirit to rise above the level of his fellow men and to assert his belief in goodness and submission. Kazantzakis' Francis is not the calm and undisturbed saint of legend, preaching to the animals. He is a man, tempted, weary, but searching for spiritual peace in a world of evil and war.
Kazantzakis has made his narrator, Saint Francis' companion, a cheerful monk, happy with wine and good food, weak in the ways of the flesh, but faithful to the master he cannot fully understand. Through his eyes we see the endless strife between the flesh and the spirit, the bitter wanderings over Europe and the Holy Land, the struggle against complacent and entrenched men in the Church that finally led to the founding of the Franciscan order.
This is the story of Saint Francis as only Nikos Kazantzakis could tell it.
It is a book that cannot fail to move everyone who reads it.