“The miracle” Mykonos through the sharp gaze of Nikos Kazantzakis
It was 11 August 1925 when the famous writer arrived on the island of Mykonos. In the letter he sent to his wife, Eleni, he conveyed to her in his own unique way all those images, smells and the simplicity of the locals, elements that made the island stand out among hundreds of other destinations.
11.06.2021 George Pratanos
Almost a century ago, in the distant 1926, Nikos Kazantzakis visited Toledo, one of the most important cities of Spain during the Middle Ages, “the ascetic base” as he characteristically writes in his letter to Eleni Kazantzaki. The Cretan thinker does not hesitate to share his disappointment as, “Toledo is not as I expected” to continue writing: “where is Jerusalem, where is Mykonos and where is Moscow. Here are the three states that amazed me”. In contrast to the image of the writers that has been formed in the collective unconscious, that wants them withdrawn from social life, the Cretan thinker is one of the most travelled in his time. Having lived for more than 14 years in Europe (France, Italy, Germany), having travelled all over the Soviet Union, having visited China twice, but also Japan, Nikos Kazantzakis was always fascinated by the idea of exploring places and people. His series of books, Travelling (Kazantzakis Publications), is enjoyable in terms of the brilliant recording of all he saw and lived in the exotic destinations of his time.
“The miracle is the whole state, the air, the soil, the arid mountain, the common people, their speech, the figs, the grapes, the thyme, the mint”.
“The Miracle”. Mykonos with the sharp eye of Nikos Kazantzakis.
Having travelled millions of kilometers, his enthusiasm and love for Matogiannia seems permanent, a point of reference in the beauty of the countless cities and villages he had visited. In August 1925 the worldly Cretan with his friends toured the Cyclades and on the 11th of the month he arrived in Mykonos. “Rarely have I rejoiced as deeply, as the moment I saw the small state, white as snow, with its whitewashed flat roofs, shining like a moon state, above a sea of deep blue and green”, he writes to his beloved Eleni (Le Dissident, Kazantzakis Publications), characterizing Mykonos as a “miracle”. His enthusiasm grows as he visits Matogiannia, “it was an inexpressible joy to reveal every corner”. He is impressed by the white stairs, “the wells in small squares”, the plane trees, the windmills that “slowly, wearily, quietly stir their tired wings”. And he closes his letter by noting, “The miracle is the whole state, the air, the soil, the arid mountain, the common people, their speech, the figs, the grapes, the thyme, the mint”.
“Rarely have I rejoiced as deeply, as the moment I saw the small state, white as snow, with its whitewashed flat roofs, shining like a moon state, above a sea of deep blue and green”.
The next day, 12 August, the famous writer will go up without his company to the Monastery of Panomeria. He had slept soundly, he notes, despite the barking of a dog. In the church he will find girls decorating the icon of the Virgin Mary “a burnt charred board that you cannot distinguish anything. They put wax flowers, gauze, flowers and ribbons on it. And they laughed and sung softly, as if adorning a bride” he notes. The sharp gaze of Kazantzakis, his observation and detailed description, the way he lived each of his travels, each of his short visits, lead to the conclusion that nothing superficial would impress him. After all, he was paid by the large newspapers of the time to write about his travel experiences, a job that required a high degree of judgment. And as it becomes clear from his personal correspondence, the charm that Mykonos had on him was anything but superficial.