Friday, April 26, 2013

“The last Temptation” - by Nikos Kazantzakis (Review of a book)

“The last Temptation” - by Nikos Kazantzakis (Review of a book)

Men have always cherished their prophets and messiahs as divinely ordained, with a penumbra of blessings and grace surrounding their heads. We isolate them as freaks of nature, descended into the realm of human consciousness to fulfill a divine prophecy. The Christ’s, the Buddha’s, the Mohammad’s are always venerated as other worldly human beings, who task upon this earth is merely to luxuriate in their perfection. Every act, every incident in their lives has a moral to tell, a value to extoll and path for others to follow.  The very nature of these incarnations and the caricatures that we have made of them, can sometimes be a terrible burden on our lives. They are represented as ideal human beings who have cut through the bonds of existence and its eccentricities, and stand on a pedestal for whole of mankind to look up to.  Institutionalized religions need such props; otherwise their edifice would give away. Entire moral codes, ethics and behavior of societies are modeled on the conduct of a single individual.

Nikos Kazantzakis study of Jesus is one of the magnificent pieces of controversial writing in the history of Christian literature. The booked was banned by the Vatican, filmed passionately by Roman Polanski and read surreptiously by Millions across the world in nearly fifty six languages. It took a decade for Kazantzakis to breathe life into his vision of Jesus as an ordinary mortal caught in throes of passion, lust and physical yearning. In nearly six hundred pages of magical writing, he presents Jesus as a man who struggles with divinity; the son of a carpenter making crosses to crucify the messiahs, shunned and scorned by the multitude, lacerating within: desperately seeking to reconcile himself to a life of the Flesh, torn between the pull of the divine and the stranglehold of the body - Kazantzakis imbues the transformation of Jesus with a rare insight and conviction that makes the messiah more convincing and Human to behold.

This is not a book for faint hearted. It questions the very authenticity of our beliefs and convictions on religion. In many ways, the book is more of one’s inward journey represented as the life of Christ. The descent into divinity oftentimes brings out a lot of demons within oneself, and the travails of Jesus bearing the cross truly symbolizes the annihilation of the tortured self and its demons: not by transcendence, but by a total acceptance of destiny choicelessly. When Jesus reaches the monastery in blinding thunderstorm to redeem himself at the altar of celibacy, his eyes fall upon the spectacle of snakes mating in gay abandon :twisting and turning , stretching the limits of physical intimacy, oblivious to the surrounding, engrossed in the pure art of mating. It is then that he realizes the futility of running away from life. In one flashing moment of deep insight, the suffocation of his self is released and in its place, the divine genesis of Christ happens and merges with Jesus – a reconciliation of apparent opposites.

Kazantzakis wrote this book in Greek and P.A Bien’s English translation is marvelous. This a book that was destined for immortality, though the author did not live to see the recognition it got. Read this book with all the reverence that you would give to a scripture. There is a possibility for Transformation………….

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