CHAPTER 5: Dulcimers in other countries since 1800 > Eastern Europe

Greece - 2 of 4: Zorba the Greek

Kazantzakis clearly considered that his readers would be familiar enough with the instrument for its central part in Zorba the Greek to be meaningful: early on in the process of painting his characters the instrument is introduced, and in a sense given a character of its own, to be developed a little later on, when it "doesn't want to..." play.

"And what have you got in your bundle? Food? Clothes? ..."

"No... it's a santuri. When I'm hard up, I go round the inns playing the santuri. I sing the old Klephtic tunes from Macedonia. Then I take my hat round - this beret here! - and it fills up with money..."

I was twenty. I heard the santuri for the first time at one of my village fetes ... It took my breath away. I couldn't eat anything for three days.

"What's wrong with you?" my father asked. May his soul rest in peace.

"I want to learn the santuri!"

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Are you a gipsy? D'you mean to say you'd turn into a strummer?"

'" want to learn the santuri!"

I had a little money put aside for my marriage. It was a kid's idea, but I was still half-baked then, my blood was hot, I wanted to get married, the poor idiot! Anyway, I spent everything I had and more besides, and bought a santuri. The one you're looking at. I vanished with it to Salonica and got hold of a Turk, Retsep Effendi, who taught everybody the santuri. I threw myself at his feet.

"What do you want, little infidel?" he said.

"I want to learn the santuri"

"All right, but why throw yourself at my feet?"

"Because I've no money to pay you!"

"And you're really crazy about the santuri, are you?"


"Well, you can stay, my boy. I don't need paying!"

I stayed a year and studied with him. May God sanctify his remains! He must be dead now. If God lets dogs enter his paradise, let him open his gate to Retsep Effendi. Since I learnt to play the santuri I've been a different man. When I'm feeling down, or when I'm broke, I play the santuri and it cheers me up. When I'm playing, you can talk to me, I hear nothing, and even if I hear, I can't speak. It's no good my trying. I can't ...! (87).

Other references occur later, and even the close of the book as a whole consists of a final message about the instrument (88).