Nikos Kazantzakis is a rich and powerful writer not taken particularly seriously in English and American literary circles, probably because there the traditions of empiricism and science are so firmly established. What Kazantzakis said of Leaves of Grass--""it is all wind, sea, light, joy""--could be said of his own work, though Kazantzakis is much more dramatic, Dionysian, animistic. ""Kazantzakis was to believe more and more in the omnipotence of the spirit: If one knows how to desire a thing, one obtains it. One even creates it out of the void. . . ."" This is his wife speaking in her intimate and engrossing biography, based in large part on his letters to her and to his friends, reproductions of which fill up much of the text. In essence, this ""spirit"" was embodied in Kazantzakis Grecian heritage, Christianity, and the idea of world revolution. Although Kazantzakis was never a Marxist (his heroes are really Nietzschean supermen in primitive disguise), he spent a great deal of his life in salvation-minded journeys through contemporary history: Lenin's Russia, the Spanish Civil War, the eruptions in Asia. No doubt, it is the contradictory pull between his own ravaging individualism and his commitment to the masses that has made him seem intellectually suspect. Both the letters and the p portrait drawn by his wife do not clarify matters, and Kazantzakis remains less a modern figure than a nineteenth-century giant attempting to stave off the technological era. The lyrical close-up is fascinating, but critically limited.