Freedom and Death is Kazantzakis's modern Iliad. The context is Crete in the late nineteenth century, the epic struggle between Greeks and Turks, between Christianity and Islam. A new uprising takes place to rival those of 1854, 1866 and 1878, and the island is thrown into confusion yet again. In the village of Megalokastro a Cretan resistance fighter, Captain Michales, is matched by the Turkish bey, his blood-brother. The life of the local community continues shakily, but is disrupted by explosions of violence.
Nikos Kazantzakis was born in 1883 in Herakleion on the island of Crete. During the Cretan revolt of 1897 his family was sent to the island of Naxos, where he attended the French School of the Holy Cross. From 1902 to 1906 he studied law at Athens University. He worked first as a journalist and throughout a long career wrote several plays, travel journals and translations. His remarkable travels began in 1907 and there were few countries in Europe or Asia that he didn't visit. He studied Buddhism in Vienna and later belonged to a group of radical intellectuals in Berlin, where he began his great epic The Odyssey, which he completed in 1938. He didn't start writing novels until he was almost 60 and completed his most famous work, Zorba the Greek, in 1946. Other novels include Freedom and Death (1953) and The Last Temptation (1954), which the Vatican placed on the Index. Return to Greco, an autobiographical novel, was published in 1961.Nikos Kazantzakis finally settled in Antibes with his second wife, and died there from leukaemia in October 1957. He is buried at Herakleion, where the epitaph on his tomb reads: 'I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free'.