Excerpt from Pierre Sipriot's interview with Nikos Kazantzakis
French Radio (Paris), 6th May 1955
N.Kazantzakis talks about Crete
"I don't see Crete as picturesque, smiling place. Its form is austere. Furrowed by struggles and pain. Situated as it is between Europe, Asia and Africa, the island was destined by its geographical position to become the bridge between those three continents. That's why Crete was the first land in Europe to receive the dawn of cvilisation which came from the East. Two thousand years before the Greek miracle, that mysterious, so-called Aegean civilisation was in full bloom on Crete - still dumb, full of life, reeling with colours, finesse and taste which surprise and provoke awe. It is in vain that we defy the traces of the past. I believe there is an effulgence, a magic effulgence radiating out of ancient lands which have struggled and suffered a great deal. As if something remains after the disappearance of the peoples who have struggled, cried and loved on a patch of land. This radiation from past times is particularly intense on Crete. It penetrates you the moment you set foot on Cretan soil. Then you are overcome by another, more concrete emotion. Anyone who knows the tragic history of the last centuries of the island is transfixed when he reflects on the frenzied struggle on that land between men fighting for their freedom and oppressors raving to crush them. These Cretans have grown so familiar with death that they no longer fear it. For centuries they suffered so much, proved so often that death itself could not overcome them, that they came to the conclusion that death is required in the triumph of their ideal, that salvation begins at the peak of despair. Yes, the truth is hard to swallow. But the Cretans, toughened by their struggle and greedy for life, gulp it down it like a glass of cold water.
"What was life like for you, grandfather?" I asked an old Cretan one day. He was a hundred years old, scarred by old wounds and blind. He was warming himself in the sun, huddled in the doorway of his hut. He was '"proud of ear" as we say on Crete. He couldn't hear well. I repeated my question to him, "What was your long life like, grandfather, your hundred years?"
Like a glass of cold water," he replied.
"And are you still thirsty?"
He raised his hand abruptly. "Damn those who are thirsty no more," he shouted.
That's the Cretans for you. How could I not make a symbol of them? "