The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis – Book Review

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Ever since I finished off reading God’s Pauper, I had decided to read the blacklisted book by Kazantzakis – The Last Temptation. But when I started reading it, I understood that it is not an easy book to read at all… So I will pick the book, read a few pages, set it aside and then pick the book again after few days…this continued for a long time until today when I finally finished it off…Hooooo!!!

The Last Temptation has enough reasons to be banned by Vatican if you take it in an objective manner. Being a Catholic, I had issues reading about a weak Mother Mary and a much more weaker Jesus; both of them seemed like there were forced into the great plan of salvation by God the Father. This is in much contrast against my idea and the teachings about Christ.Jesus is taught as someone who is mentally strong and determined about his role in the salvation of the world. So is Mother Mary… So Kazantzakis’s Jesus in the first half failed miserably to fulfill my expectations. Simeon the old rabbi was the only consolation, who strengthened Jesus even when he was not ready to face his own future.

It is known that Jesus was a carpenter, but Kazantzakis’s Jesus is a carpenter who gets cursed by people around him because he build crosses on which Romans crucify people who go against them. There are descriptions about the hard life of his parents – Mary who worked hard to take care of the paralyzed Joseph and her son Jesus. Jesus was perpetually troubled by God, but he could never clearly understand what he should do about it.

Mary Magdalene is another important character in this story with her being depicted as Jesus’s love interest who cannot be united because God’s is against the union. Her prostitution is a result of this intervention from God. Magdalene eventually learns to love Jesus as her savior and becomes his ardent follower and supporter as it is seen in the Bible. 

The characterization of Judas came as a total surprise to me; but it turned out to be quite good by the end. Judas is depicted as red headed as well as hot headed even before the days of Jesus’s public life. Nikos Kazantzakis has depicted Judas as the most emotionally strong person among Jesus’s disciples which is the reason why he is the “one” destined to betray Jesus. This part was pretty interesting to read.

The Last Temptation is not at all an easy book to read. It took me months to toil through the pages digesting the words and characterization of Kazantzakis. But I believe it was worth every bit of my effort.

And finally the best part of the book that I liked so much was how Saint Mathew write the Gospel according to Mathew. Probably Kazantzakis wrote his books in such a similar state. I am not going to reveal the secret. It is for you to read and find out that narration…and of course did you find that part interesting. My husband read half of the book and was truly fascinated by the Baptism of Jesus.

The Last Temptation takes you to closer to the Son of God though Vatican would have banned it for the contents against its teachings. You  meet Kazantzakis’s Jesus and start wondering what exactly happened 2000 years ago, did Jesus feel anything like what this Jesus felt?, was he always convinced about his call? etc etc and lot many more questions.

Probably I will pick up “Christ Recrucified” whenever I can get hold of a copy? 

Verdict: This is not an easy read, but worth it. Read it for the prose too !!!

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