Passion and struggle were the themes of Kazantzakis' writing, so no wonder he traveled continually, pursued by or pursuing life in its biggest, most romantic sense. These travelogues from Italy and the Middle East (commissioned by an Athenian newspaper in 1926-27) display an almost uncanny perception of the hearts, the faith, the myths of the peoples and their land. Perhaps it's because they're such ancient lands -- Kazantzakis has a strong predilection for the primordial side of man. The impressions of streets and scenes come alive with a constantly reiterated joy and belief in the miraculous immanent everywhere. Portraits of St. Francis and Mussolini, back to back, reveal the essence of Italy. In Egypt he exclaims: ""Nowhere on Earth have I felt such violent and sensual contact of life with death."" Crossing the Sinai desert he enters so deep into the soul of the Hebrew race that late one night in a monastery he ""unburdens"" himself of a biblical tale about Samuel's reluctant anointing of David as King of the Jews. He speculates on a coming emergence of the East, a ""new Exodus"" of Asians and Africans, but is left with a ""sudden, tragic foreboding"" when a young Zionist rejects his belief that diaspora is the only Jewish country -- a chilling prescience of today's headlines. The author revised these essays late in his life (the new edition was published in Greece in 1961, five years after his death). They are near perfect -- Kazantzakis at his spiritually intoxicating best, in a sphere that increasingly occupies out interest and our fears.