The Unwanted Dead by Yorgos Pratanos

Set in Germany and Greece in 1957, the story of Nikos Kazantzakis is told through the eyes of an ambitious young reporter Freddie Germanos, who is collecting information on the great man’s life, and the reminiscences of his wife Helen and her friend Agnes. Poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher, playwright, journalist – Kazantzakis is perhaps best known for writing Zorba which was later made into a movie.

Greece has vilified him and denied his greatness. Nor has his native Crete honoured its most famous citizen. The Church has attempted to excommunicate him. He has been nominated 9 times for a Nobel Award, but his enemies and critics, including Queen Frederika have thwarted him. He has been persecuted and disparaged in his own country for his socialism and questioning of Christian beliefs, while being widely admired in the English speaking world.

The story focusses on Helen and her friends’ struggle to find a worthy burial place for the great man on the island of his birth. Their efforts are hampered by malicious members of the Church, both the hierarchy and the lower orders as well as the government. The book is not a compelling read but it is interesting to learn about the struggle of a grieving widow to overcome the prejudice of those who would like see her beloved husband relegated to the mists of obscurity, and give him the funeral he deserves.


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