Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
When Elias Canetti (kah-NEH-tee) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981, he was recognized as a preserver and transmitter of classical German culture in an age when the individual is threatened by the powerful brutality of the masses. Canetti was born on July 25, 1905, in Ruse, Bulgaria. His father, Jacques Canetti, belonged to a merchant family of Sephardic Jews who had settled in Turkey several centuries before moving to Bulgaria. His mother, Mathilde Artitti, also belonged to one of the old and distinguished Sephardic families. The parents had met while studying in Vienna and spoke German—almost as a secret language—when they were together. The common language of the Jewish community was Ladino, an old form of Spanish, and Canetti also heard and understood Hebrew and Bulgarian, as well as perhaps a dozen languages and dialects at this early stage of life.
When Canetti was six years old the family moved to England, where he added English and French to the list of languages he knew. Following the sudden death of his father, his mother decided to move to the Continent, where they lived in Vienna, Zurich, and Frankfurt, and Canetti learned and mastered German, the language he used for all of his writings. Upon completion of secondary school in 1924 Canetti attended the University of Vienna. Although he completed his study of chemistry with a...
(The entire section is 896 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Born July 25, 1905, in a Danube port city in northern Bulgaria as the oldest son of Mathilde and Jacques Canetti, Elias Canetti had a polyglot and multicultural upbringing. As he details in the first volume of his autobiography, German was the fourth language he acquired—after Ladino (an archaic Spanish dialect spoken by Sephardic Jews that is also known as Spaniolic and Judezmo), Bulgarian, and English. In June, 1911, he was taken to England and enrolled in a Manchester school. Following the sudden death of his father, the family (consisting of his high-minded, strong-willed, and rather overbearing mother as well as his two younger brothers) settled in Vienna, but they spent some of the years of World War I in Switzerland. After attending secondary school in Zurich and Frankfurt am Main, Canetti returned to Vienna and studied chemistry at the university from 1924 to 1929, taking a doctorate of philosophy. For a time, he lived in Berlin and worked as a freelance writer, translating books by Upton Sinclair.
In February, 1934, Canetti married Veza Taubner-Calderón, whose short stories have garnered critical attention. His mother died in Paris in June, 1937, and that is where Canetti and his wife immigrated in November of the following year, later settling in London in January, 1939. While working on Crowds and Power and other writings, Canetti eked out a living as a freelance journalist and language teacher. After the death of his wife in May,...
(The entire section is 277 words.)