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Thematic Exhibition in the Museum
“The voyage, the quest, the correspondence”
A thematic sojourn in Spain
The thematic exhibition “Travels, Quest, Correspondence” hosts significant documents-testimonies of the true itinerary of Nikos Kazantzakis’ journey through Spain. His book Travelling Spain is the landmark of the author’s quest. It is a work of major counterpoints, comprising the distillation of the writer’s correspondence, experiences, images and thoughts after his first three journeys in this country.
Curated by – Research and Documentation – Exhibition design: Efi Kefalaki, Voula Vasiliadi, Alexandra Maravelia
Open air Exhibition
Philosophers | Landscapes | Spanish Soul | Civil War | El Greco
Five neighbourhoods – one country. The Spain of Kazantzakis
For Kazantzakis, every trip, involving both body and soul, marked an experience that was both material and spiritual. A lover par excellence of natural beauty, and an indefatigable labourer of thinking, the author reined all his senses when enjoying a landscape surrounding him. Every nook and corner of his mind, every path of his intellect was filled with images: images of the cities he had been through, the streets and lanes he had walked along, the stones and benches he had rested on. He was never tired of admiring the achievements of man, who had managed “to lift stones and bring them high up, resting in the air like stone miracles”. The author wandered through the cities of Castilla, from the ‘solemn, war-like city’ of Burgos to the old capital, Valladolid, and then to the lanes of ‘this decadent teacher,’ Salamanca. An indefatigable traveller, Kazantzakis, like another Ulysses, crossed mountains, suffered, fought as a wandering knight of the Ideal, and, transformed into a Don Quixote, arrived at the ‘highest capital of Europe, the one closest to the heavens’, Madrid. Kazantzakis, just like the River Manzanares, fell ‘at her feet (of Madrid) like a burning lover out-of-breath’, recalling the ‘sharply lit and also deeply dark’ Toledo, the ‘Athenian grace and Arabian desolation’ of Cordoba, the sweet sun of Seville. From the high orchards of Granada he looked across the expanse of Sierra Nevada and his heart missed a beat outside the Grand Gate of Alhambra. He goes on in his travelling through cities and villages, Avila, Vargas, Alicante, Zaragoza, closes his eyes and ‘the whole, hustling, multi-coloured, dense drama of Spain springs behind the eyelids” of his…
In the 'Landscape' Neighbourhood, through a mixture of images, music and colour, you will take an imaginary trip into time and space and revel in the Spain of Kazantzakis, the country he considered to be his second homeland, in the arms of his first. Spain and Crete, two landscapes, one meeting...
"I am struggling to spread my mind clearly over the whole of this outstretched fleece that Spain is on the map of the globe. I draw in my mind its mountain ranges, its rivers, the high plateaus, its plains. […] How could man ever managed to praise, without screaming, the beauty of the land? Often, when I wander alone through foreign cities, it is difficult for me to hold myself back so as not to scream."
Penetrating, carnivorous and merciless is Kazantzakis’ glance: it bares the flesh, it peels it off the bones, it decomposes matter, it seeks, manic-like, the essence of man, his Psyche. And then he reveals it bare and helpless, without touching it up to flatter it, without any gossamer veils to beautify it, transparent and abysmal. His travels is Spain were a quest and a revelation of the essence and depth of the Spanish soul. Behind the image of a young Spaniard, the author sees a modern Don Quixote, chasing skyscrapers instead of windmills. His Dulcinea is not a distant dream, but a woman with flesh and blood, who marries this knight of the Ideal. And Sancho, the ever-loyal comrade, now is now passively facing daily routine. Fatal Carmen has now become a teacher or a worker. St. Teresa is trying to save her soul by leaving convents behind her and following a different route, through the streets and roads of modern Spain. Is it the eternal heroes that shaped the Spanish soul or the Spanish soul that shaped eternal heroes?
In the 'Spanish Soul' Neighbourhood, you can seek out the modern Spaniard, as encountered by Kazantzakis whilst seated in a train, you can look Don Quixote in the eye, you too can tilt at windmills and seek out Dulcinea in his soul. Beneath the breath of the divine Bull, you can experience love and the mortal combat between man and god, the hopeless and fearless quixotic adventure. Encounter the contradictions that embrace each other and make up a rich, single unit: the Spanish soul.
"Passion, desire, a warm embrace of life and a feeling that all this is nothing, it is Nothingness, that death is our grand heir. Yet, the more powerful the soul behind this feeling of Nothingness, the more intensely it experiences each and every fleeting, futile moment. The Spanish soul is a Quixote-Sancho or a Sancho-Quixote, depending on the era. Sometimes it is the eternal element that prevails, sometimes the other. Yet, the two are always in conflict and suffering together …"
Having already travelled to Spain twice (1926, 1932-1933), while living on the island of Aegina writing his Odyssey, in October 1936, Kazantzakis received a telegram from Georgios Vlachos, the director of Kathimerini newspaper, which said: “I know you’d rather go the Reds, but I am sending you to the Blacks, as you call them.” This was how Kazantzakis found himself in Spain in mid-October, as a war correspondent, to report the events that scarred the history of the Spanish people and the entire Europe. Eminent literary figures, the likes of Hemingway, George Orwell, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, moved to Spain as volunteers, followed the ‘Blacks’ or the ‘Reds’ and sent in their reportages, giving journalism the chance to be fully identified -as never before- with literature.
Through the eyes of these foreign correspondents, the Spanish Civil War acquired a fairytale character, where monsters, princes and scarlet spells emerging from the smoke and the rabble of cities became the heroes of a futile lyricism. Kazantzakis travelled through cities, stopped and sensed, breathless, this ‘new inhumane bullfighting arena’, watched the century-old fraternal hatred mercilessly burst out and annihilate people. He felt, described and recorded what he saw during his 40 Days in Spain and sent his articles in for publication.
In the 'Civil War' Neighborhood, you will travel to the long-suffering Civil War Spain, the alleys and streets of cities and villages where Kazantzakis wandered, the images he encountered and the voices he heard, the people he saw for the first time, as well as the people he saw for the last time...