A life of acclaim and struggle
Mikis Theodorakis was born on July 29, 1925. At the age of 12, he began to compose. In his youth, he belonged to a fascist youth group, but in 1942, after he was arrested by the Italian occupation regime, he became a communist. He took an active part in the struggle against the Germans, and in the Greek Civil War. Time after time, he was sent to jails, detention camps and remote islands. He was injured and tortured, and he fell ill. During all this, he didn’t stop composing. During the 1950s, Theodorakis studied in Paris. He composed classical music and wrote works for the ballet. In the early 1960s, he returned to Greece and developed his unique musical style, which immediately enjoyed sweeping success. Theodorakis also composed music for many films. The most famous of them is «Zorba the Greek» (1964). After the murder of opposition leader Grigoris Lambrakis, Theodorakis became a political activist and a left-wing member of Parliament. After the colonels’ coup in 1967, he went underground, was arrested and detained on a remote island. Three years later, he was released and left for exile in Paris. During the 1970s, the exiled composer made a series of visits to Israel. His concerts in Caesarea, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem attracted huge crowds. Theodorakis became a favorite of Israel’s upper crust, and an ally of the peace movement. Later on, when he identified with the Palestinian struggle, he was harshly criticized by right-wing circles. His visits to Israel tapered off until they stopped altogether. In Greece itself, Theodorakis is considered a provocative public figure. His transition from left to right to left drew quite a lot of criticism. In spite of that, his name is still mentioned as a possible candidate for president. His status as the most important Greek musician is unquestioned. Even in France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, Theodorakis is a cultural figure of the first rank. Some consider him a person whose work and life embody the spirit of the contemporary European left. In recent years, Mikis Theodorakis has adopted a militant anti-American approach. He criticized the NATO bombings in Serbia, and opposed the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. In 2002, he led the mass anti-Israel rallies in Athens and in Thessaloniki. In November 2003, he aroused an international furor when he was quoted as saying that the Jews are the root of evil. Since making that statement, Theodorakis has not agreed to grant an interview to any Israeli media outlet.