Death and Salvation in Nikos Kazantzakis’ Captain Michalis

Jen Harrison


Kazantzakis’ Captain Michales1tells the Cretan rebellion against the Turks of 1889. Throughthe individual men of Megalo Kastro, we watch the struggle for freedom of a people underforeign rule. Disempowered, feeling second class in their own territory, the Cretans’ battle isnot only for their country, but also for themselves. Disaffected, the men have lost their senseof power and purpose. Taking arms against the enemy promises a way out, even at the cost oftheir own life; often, in fact, deliberately at the cost of their own life. Although the bookbears as subtitle the slogan Freedom orDeath, the Cretan situation does not afford a choicebetween the two outcomes. As realised in his own final hours by the eponymous hero,Captain Michales, the only genuine option for the men is freedom anddeath: finding theirown salvation through giving their lives to the cause.

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