Elias Canetti 1905-1994
Bulgarian-born Swiss novelist, aphorist, autobiographer, and nonfiction writer.
The following entry provides criticism on Canetti's works from 1962 through 2001. For criticism prior to 1962, see CLC, Volumes 3, 14, 25, 75; and for an obituary entry on Canetti, see CLC, Volume 86.
The recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize for literature, Canetti is best known for his novel Die Blendung (1935-36; Auto-da-Fé) and his treatise on mass behavior, Masse und Macht (1960; Crowds and Power). Both of these works probe the ways in which individuals are affected by participation in a group. More recent critical attention has focused on Canetti's plays and his three-volume autobiography. While often criticized for the unscientific methods and subjective conclusions presented in his writings, Canetti is recognized for his insightful analysis of crowd psychology and vivid depictions of crowd phenomena as well as for his portrait, in his autobiography, of twentieth-century European intellectual life.
Canetti was born on July 25, 1905, in Rutschuk (now Ruse), Bulgaria, to parents who were descendants of the Sephardic Jews of Spain. Because of this heritage, he was exposed to numerous languages early in his life, namely Bulgarian, Hebrew, and Ladino, a fifteenth-century patois of Spanish and Hebrew spoken in his family's home and in the Sephardic community. Canetti's parents were ardent students of German literature and spoke to each other in German when they did not want their children to understand their conversations; remembering his fascination with the air of mystery that he perceived in these discussions, Canetti later adopted German as the language of his intellectual and literary pursuits. In 1911 the Canetti family moved to London. When his father died suddenly in 1912, his mother moved the family first to Vienna and then to other cities in the German-speaking countries of Europe. Fearing that he would become “soft” without the guidance of a father, Canetti's mother taught him German and pressured him to study chemistry, deriding his growing interest in literature and writing. During the 1920s he immersed himself in the cultural life of Berlin and Vienna, where he met such figures as satirist Karl Kraus, artist George Grosz, and novelists Robert Musil, Hermann Broch, and Thomas Mann. In 1922 Canetti joined a demonstration in reaction to the murder of the German-Jewish industrialist Walter Rathenau, and in 1927 he was part of a crowd that burned down the Vienna Palace of Justice while protesting the acquittal of men indicted for killing workers in the Austrian province of Burgenland. These events confirmed in him the desire to make a life's work of the study of mass psychology. After receiving his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1929, Canetti produced his first and only novel, Auto-da-Fé. During the 1930s he translated the writings of Upton Sinclair into German and completed one play, Die Hochzeit (1965; The Wedding), before fleeing to England after the annexation of Austria by Germany and the anti-Semitic violence of Krystallnacht. Canetti continued to write in German during his wartime exile in England, devoting his time to works such as Crowds and Power. In ensuing decades, Canetti divided his time between Hampstead, England, and Zurich, and published essays, aphorisms, and three volumes of autobiography. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, Bulgaria, England, and Austria all claimed him as their own. Canetti died in Zurich on August 14, 1994, and is buried there next to the grave of Irish modernist novelist James Joyce.
Canetti's only novel, which he intended to be the first installment of an eight-volume novel series entitled “The Human Comedy of Madmen,” Auto-da-Fé details the ruination of Peter Kien, a world-renowned sinologist whose life revolves around his 25,000-volume library. Kien is obsessed with his books, which he regards as companions. The other major characters in the novel also exhibit obsessions that dominate their lives: Kien's housekeeper, Therese Krumbholz, is preoccupied with satisfying her appetites for money and sex; Benedikt Pfaff, the manager of Kien's apartment house, with seizing money and power; and the dwarf Fischerle with becoming a wealthy and famous chess champion. Auto-da-Fé satirizes the greed, cruelty, and intolerance of each of these individuals, who all readily join in the persecution of one another and at the same time are themselves victimized.
Crowds and Power, which Canetti worked on for thirty years, draws on the resources of his erudition in numerous fields, including literature, anthropology, and science, in an attempt to explain the origins, behavior, and significance of crowds as forces in society. Organized as a large volume of brief, aphoristic essays explaining various aspects and examples of mass psychology, the book scrutinizes crowds and crowd phenomena found in nature, mythology, and history. In an effort to take a fresh look at his subject, Canetti created his own terminology for discussing mass phenomena, disregarded modern scientific study of crowds, and ignored important contemporary examples of crowd behavior and manipulators, most notably nazism and Adolf Hitler. However, because Canetti avoided scientific techniques and language, his study is highly original in its approach and accessible to most readers.
Although Canetti's plays are generally considered difficult, if not impossible, to produce on stage, they have begun to receive more critical attention in recent years. Throughout his career, Canetti considered himself first and foremost a dramatist. In his plays—The Wedding, Die Befristeten (1956; The Numbered), and Die Komödie der Eitelkeit (1965; The Comedy of Vanity)—Canetti extended his interest in character type to types of social life. This connected his plays with his anthropological pursuits. But whereas in Crowds and Power he had intended an inventory of the human condition, in his dramas he was engaged in the exploration of unrealized possibilities of human existence.
Collections of Canetti's essays, sketches, and aphorisms, as well as his autobiographical trilogy, have garnered more significant attention of late, particularly his connections to and observations of Friedrich Nietzsche and Franz Kafka.
Critics have by turns praised and scorned Canetti's examination of the psychology of crowds because its scholarship is unscientific and it draws conclusions without the support of arguments or empirical proof. Furthermore, some contend that Auto-da-Fé is little more than a biting satire of dementia. Nevertheless, many commentators praise the book for its treatment of the dual nature of human beings as both individuals and members of a group. Critical examination of Canetti's works also focuses on the question of Canetti's interpretation of such figures as the anti-Semitic, misogynist Otto Weininger, Nietzsche, and Kafka.
Die Blendung [Auto-da-Fé] (novel) 1935-36
Fritz Wotruba (criticism) 1955
Die Befristeten [The Numbered] (play) 1956; also published as Life-Terms, 1983
Masse und Macht [Crowds and Power] (nonfiction) 1960
Dramen (plays) 1964
Aufzeichnungen 1942-1948 (aphorisms) 1965
Die Hochzeit [The Wedding] (play) 1965
Die Komödie der Eitelkeit [The Comedy of Vanity] (play) 1965
Die Stimmen von Marrakesch: Aufzeichnungen nach einer Reise [The Voices of Marrakesh: A Record of a Visit] (travel essay) 1967
Der andere Prozeß: Kafkas Briefe an Felice [Kafka's Other Trial: The Letters to Felice] (criticism) 1969
Alle vergeudete Verebrung: Aufzeichnungen 1949-1960 (aphorisms) 1970
Die gespaltene Zukunft: Aufsätze und Gespräche (essays) 1972
Macht und Überleben: Drei Essays (essays) 1972
Die Provinz des Menschen: Aufzeichnungen 1942-1972 [The Human Province] (aphorisms) 1973
Der Ohrenzeuge: Fünfzig: Charaktere [Earwitness: Fifty Characters] (sketches) 1974
Das Gewissen der Worte [The Conscience of Words] (essays) 1975...
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SOURCE: Adorno, Theodor, and Elias Canetti. “Elias Canetti: Discussion with Theodor W. Adorno.” Thesis Eleven, no. 45 (1996): 1-15.
[In the following interview, originally conducted in 1962, Canetti and Adorno discuss psychoanalysis and crowd psychology.]
[Adorno]: I know that in many respects you differ strongly from Freud and are very critical toward him. In one methodological respect, however, you are surely in agreement with what he often emphasized, above all when psychoanalysis was still in its formative stage and had not yet become something completely reified, that he had no intention of rejecting or disputing the results of other established sciences but wanted to add what they had neglected. This neglect and its causes he considered extremely essential, since it possesses a crucial character for human life together, just as is the case for you. You could, I believe, elucidate this best through the central importance that the question of death plays in your work, as it does also for many, in the widest sense, anthropological works today. Precisely in relation to this death complex—if I can speak in such a pompous way of this most elementary fact—you could give our listeners an idea, a model of what this neglected dimension actually is, and what aspects in the experience of death for instance have special value for you, so that we can gain insight into the fruitfulness of your...
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SOURCE: Morgan, Peter. “Georges Kien and the ‘Diagnosis of Delusion’ in Elias Canetti's Die Blendung.1” Neophilologus 76, no. 1 (January 1992): 77-89.
[In the following essay, Morgan examines the roles of irony and “narrative self-reflexion” in Die Blendung.]
Since the republication of Elias Canetti's Die Blendung in the early 1960s, interpreters have asked whether a resolution is posited between the extremes of “Kopf” and “Welt,” or at least whether it is possible to find a perspective in the novel on Peter Kien's crisis. The figure of Georges Kien, Peter's brother, the psychiatrist, who in the last section of the novel saves Peter from his humiliation at the hands of Therese and Pfaff, has become central to this question in the critical literature on Die Blendung. Georges dominates the third part of the novel and appears to represent—and restores sanity and order in an otherwise grotesque and senseless world. While Raymond Williams sounded an early note of warning about the extent to which the ending can be seen as a “diagnosis of delusion,”2 many critics have viewed Georges as a positive counterpart to his brother. More recent criticisms have focused on negative aspects of the characterization of Georges. In the critical discussion of Peter and Georges Kien however, little attention has been paid to aspects of irony and narrative...
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SOURCE: Darby, David. “A Literary Life: The Textuality of Elias Canetti's Autobiography.” Modern Austrian Literature 25, no. 2 (1992): 37-49.
[In the following essay, Darby examines Canetti's apparent awareness in the narrative of his autobiography of the difficulty of writing an autobiographical work.]
I propose a reading of Elias Canetti's three volumes of autobiography against the grain.1 Unlike the author's other extended prose narrative, Die Blendung, which exploits overtly complex narrative strategies to disrupt the ease of the reader's task, these texts have generally been received as works of a reassuring structural order and simplicity. This essay offers a study of the inconsistencies of the narrative and thereby an exploration of one aspect of the formal artifice which characterizes the narration of Canetti's literary life. By reading “against the grain,” I mean that I will focus my attention on the frequent passages in the text which reveal in the narration an awareness of the problems inherent in writing a literary life. These are points where the mimetic illusion enunciated by the discreet third-person past-tense narrator is suspended as a result of an interruption by a present-tense consciousness in the narration. My reading will not approach Canetti's autobiography as a document of an age and a world gone by, in the sense that I will not emphasize its historical...
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SOURCE: Scheichl, Sigurd Paul. “Is Peter Kien a Jew? A Reading of Elias Canetti's Auto-da-fé in its Historical Context.1” In The Jewish Self-Portrait in European and American Literature, edited by Hans Jürgen Schrader, Elliott M. Simon, and Charlotte Wardi, pp. 159-70. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1996.
[In the following essay, originally read at the universities of Poznan and Coimbra in 1992, Scheichl examines historical events in Canetti's lifetime that appear, literally or representatively, in Auto da fé.]
The English title of Elias Canetti's only novel, Auto-da-fé (1935, finished in 1931)2 refers to the end of the book, when the protagonist burns himself and his library. The German title, Die Blendung, “The Blinding”, refers to something quite different: to the loss of the central character's ability to see reality, but also to the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah (Judges, ch. 13-16), to Samson's loss of force and the destruction of his eyesight.
The relation to the Bible can be corroborated by textual signs: the protagonist, Peter Kien, is described as being very tall, reminding us of Samson, whom we imagine as a very big man: “Already at dawn his long legs were in motion” (p. 167). (“In aller Frühe war er schon auf den langen Beinen;” Bl [Die Blendung], p. 178). This quotation seems...
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SOURCE: Elbaz, Robert, and Leah Hadomi. “On Canetti's Novelistic Sign.” Orbis Litterarum 48, no. 5 (1993): 269-80.
[In the following essay, Elbaz and Hadomi find Canetti's novel Auto da fé to be an important development in the narrative progress of the twentieth-century novel.]
Elias Canetti's novelistic performance is of paramount importance in our investigation of the productive process of narrative forms as it has evolved in the modern and post-modern novel in the aftermath of the First World War.1 Despite the relative neglect Auto da fé has known from its publication in the 1930s until 1981 when the author was awarded the Nobel prize for literature, this novel proves to be a topos, a privileged and destabilizing semiotic space with regard to the evolution of the novelistic sign, a field of play for multiple and very elaborate semiotizations.
Few novels, indeed, have had such an impact on the modern receptive consciousness, for Die Blendung (the blinding) as the author titles it in German, presents the reader with an extremely complex fictional universe which problematizes the very relationship between text and context, story and history, signifier and signified. What is at stake here is the very possibility of the novel and, by extension of text in general to make any kind of meaning, to extract a minimal signification from the historical...
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SOURCE: Falk, Thomas H. “Masks and Transformations: The Wedding, Comedy of Vanity, Life-Terms.” In Elias Canetti, pp. 68-83. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.
[In the following essay, Falk examines Canetti's plays to determine why he considered himself to be first and foremost a dramatist.]
“Above all else, I consider myself to be a dramatist and everything associated with dramatic work represents the nucleus of my personality.”1 This is a surprising statement if one considers only that Canetti has published just three plays. If, however, one also considers how Canetti has included parts of his novel and numerous character sketches in his public readings, for example, his statement becomes far less astonishing. In conversations, occasional interviews, and in some written statements, Canetti has mentioned—without giving titles—having written other plays, but no further information about such works is available. An examination of the three plays that were published will facilitate an understanding of his dramatic work.
The earliest adventure of a dramatic nature that Canetti describes in his autobiography was his active participation in the reading of the Haggadah at the time of Passover. As the youngest male in the family, he joined his grandfather in performing the question-and-answer ritual explaining the significance of the holiday. Canetti's first...
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SOURCE: McClelland, John. “The Place of Elias Canetti's Crowds and Power in the History of Western Social and Political Thought.” Thesis Eleven, no. 45 (1996): 16-27.
[In the following essay, McClelland examines sources and influences for Canetti's Crowds and Power to determine the book's place in the twentieth-century Western cultural landscape.]
This somewhat ponderously Leavisite title is meant to suggest that, in the English-speaking world at least, the problem of Canetti's Crowds and Power is to find its place in our cultural landscape. Those of us who first read Crowds and Power in the early sixties will never forget the sense of bewilderment that the book caused us. We had no doubt that we had something important in our hands. It sounded a bit oracular at times, but we easily forgave this, because Canetti was offering some kind of original explanation of the great horrifying events of the twentieth century. The world wars, the rise of fascism, and especially of Nazism, the Holocaust and the threat of the nuclear holocaust, were all being interpreted in a strikingly new way. But the problem still remained of deciding what it was, in general, that Canetti was trying to say. The details of Crowds and Power are marvellously clear and direct, and its erudition is part of its charm, but the problem remained of deciding what all the detail added up to? Another way...
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SOURCE: Maia, Rousiley C. M. “Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fé: From the Antithesis of the Crowd-Man to the Madness of Power.” Thesis Eleven, no. 45 (1996): 28-38.
[In the following essay, Maia explores Canetti's crowd theory as it appears in his novel Auto da Fé.]
Auto-da-Fe represents a new style of novel about the crowd, which incorporates aesthetically many of Canetti's theoretical concerns with crowd phenomena. In his highly introspective novel, the most interesting crowd is never the physical throng and there are just a few examples of the human crowd, in the obvious sense. However, Auto-da-Fe is full of crowd symbolism, which is comprehensible only in relation to the complex typology and theory of crowds Canetti develops in Crowds and Power. Canetti ranges very widely in Crowds and Power to challenge the evolutionary-atavist tradition underpinning classical crowd theory of the Le Bon type and to provide a complete crowd theory of a new type. Auto-da-Fe also provides new insights into many familiar and puzzling aspects of crowd psychology, as well as its relationship with power, in an essentially original way.
A central thematic equation between Auto-da-Fe, is given by the comparison between Kien, the protagonist of Auto-da-Fe, with Daniel Paul Schreber whose book Memoirs of My Nervous Illnesses provides Canetti with...
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SOURCE: Tyler, Simon. “Homage or Parody? Elias Canetti and Otto Weininger.” In Gender and Politics in Austrian Fiction, edited by Ritchie Robertson and Edward Timms, pp. 134-49. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 1996.
[In the following essay, Tyler discusses parallels between Canetti's Auto-da-fé and Otto Weininger's famously misogynistic 1903 tract Sex and Character.]
Weininger's principal work, Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character), received enormous interest in Austrian literary circles when it was first published in 1903, an interest heightened by the fact that Weininger committed suicide shortly after its publication in the house where Beethoven had died. This suicide is but one disturbing element in the conception and reception of this vehemently misogynist and anti-Semitic work, which Gerald Stieg has claimed to be a psychological and metaphysical prelude to National Socialism and its variants.1 The extraordinary popularity of this work is indicated by the fact that it went through twenty-eight editions between 1903 and 1932. As Nike Wagner has shown, Karl Kraus, the man who most inspired the young Canetti, introducing him to the richness of Viennese culture, drew extensively on the writings of Weininger; and indeed, Kraus contributed greatly to Weininger's fame, although he did not agree with his anti-feminist conclusions.2...
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SOURCE: Foell, Kristie A. “July 15, 1927: The Vienna Palace of Justice Is Burned in a Mass Uprising of Viennese Workers, a Central Experience in the Life of Elias Canetti.” In Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture 1096-1996, edited by Sander L. Gilman and Jack Zipes, pp. 464-70. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
[In the following essay, Foell explains the impact of the burning of the Vienna Palace of Justice on Canetti's thinking and works.]
I can still feel the indignation that came over me when I picked up the Reichspost; its huge headline read, “A Just Verdict.” There had been shooting in Burgenland [the region of Eastern Austria bordering Hungary], workers had been killed. The court had let the murderers go free. Now the governing party's newspaper called this exoneration a “just” decision, as the headline trumpeted. … From every quarter of Vienna the workers marched in dense processions to the Palace of Justice, whose very name embodied injustice in their eyes. It was an entirely spontaneous reaction, I felt by my own actions just how spontaneous. I rode into the city on my bicycle and joined one of the trains of protesters.
The workers, who were otherwise well-disciplined, who trusted their Social Democratic leaders and were satisfied that those leaders ran the City of...
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SOURCE: Mack, Michael. “Die Blendung as a Negative Poetics: Positivism, Nihilism, Fascism.” Orbis Litterarum 54, no. 2 (1999): 146-60.
[In the following essay, Mack posits that Canetti proposes a negative poetics in Die Blendung, demonstrating what the poet should not be, which in turn leads to a better understanding of Crowds and Power.]
In this essay I shall discuss Canetti's novel Die Blendung in relation to Canetti's poetics, which in turn influenced his friend Franz Baermann Steiner's image of the poet.1 Peter Kien—the novel's main protagonist—embodies the positivist scholar whose rationalism consists in nihilism, which mirrors fascism, rather than opposing it. Kien's skepticism opposes Steiner's and Canetti's poetics: indeed his specialism precludes any form of radicalism and as a result it also prevents the existence of a world in which death is transcended through a belief in metamorphosis. Kien figures as an anti-type of Canetti's image of the poet, who unites knowledge and social responsibility.
Canetti's poetics originates in an examination of language: according to Canetti, in poetic language knowledge and social responsibility interpenetrate.2 Canetti's self-depiction as a poet points to a trust in the force of language; and indeed in an interview with Joachim Schickel Canetti speaks of his “wirklich magische Beziehung zu...
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SOURCE: Goodheart, Eugene. “The Power of Elias Canetti.” Partisan Review LXVII, no. 4 (fall 2000): 613-21.
[In the following essay, Goodheart provides an overview of themes in Canetti's works and finds that Canetti was above all a great observer of the human condition.]
I met Elias Canetti in a café in Hampstead in 1965 while on a fellowship in London. The photo on the book jacket of a recent edition of his memoirs brings him back to me with a fidelity you rarely expect from photographs. He was stocky with a round well-fed face, a full head of hair, and a mustache. In the photo he is dressed in a three-piece suit and is seated behind a desk upon which lies a manuscript. He stares at the reader with what seems an attentive skepticism, the very picture of a cultivated European. At some point during our acquaintance, he presented me with a copy of his masterwork, Crowds and Power (1962), Masse und Macht (1960) in its original German version, the product of a thirty-five-year devotion. I dipped into the book, but never read it through until now. His other famous book is Auto-da-fé (1935) in which the library of its bibliophile hero, the paranoid sinologist Peter Kien, goes up in flames. Canetti would have appreciated the fate of my copy of Crowds and Power. It survived a fire in my own house, its cover permanently darkened by a smoke stain.
Canetti was born...
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SOURCE: Barnouw, Dagmar. “Utopian Dissent: Canetti's Dramatic Fictions.” In Critical Essays on Elias Canetti, edited by David Darby, pp. 121-34. New York: G. K. Hall and Co., 2000.
[In the following essay, Barnouw finds in Canetti's dramas a dystopian “dissent … from the utopias of the status quo.”]
In the twentieth century social imagination has been driven by dystopian rather than utopian energies, ostensibly because utopian possibility has receded before the “can do” of modern technology. Technocracy, however, has contributed not only to the increase of social and political problems but also to their solution. The real issue seems to be not so much the fact but the kind of creation, the various and ever-more rapid ways of change that, more than anything else, have lit up the age-old limitations of utopian models, their stasis and immutability. For the time being, utopian thought seems better served by the nonbinding reality of computer-created virtual worlds with their cheerfully mobile independence of time/space contingencies. It is no accident that almost all utopian communities since the eighteenth century have succumbed to the old utopian “corruptio pessima optimi”—a self-destruction intimately connected with these communities' sharp self-separation from the larger world.1 Their spatial-temporal-ideological fortification and remoteness,...
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SOURCE: Fuchs, Anne. “The Dignity of Difference: Self and Other in Elias Canetti's Voices of Marrakesh.” In Critical Essays on Elias Canetti, edited by David Darby, pp. 201-12. New York: G. K. Hall and Co., 2000.
[In the following essay, Fuchs examines Voices of Marrakesh in the post-colonial milieu, finding that Canetti neither appropriated nor colonized his subjects.]
For a long time Elias Canetti's Die Stimmen von Marrakesch (The Voices of Marrakesh) was considered marginal in relation to Canetti's major publications, such as Die Blendung (Auto-da-Fé) or his autobiography. The critical attention the book has received came largely from admirers of Canetti's works who praised it for its poetic quality without, however, placing the narrative in the context of current theories of travel writing.1 This paper addresses the fallacious innocence of much of the literature on Canetti's The Voices of Marrakesh by reading the book with reference to several arguments central to the post-colonial debate. Canetti's journey is an exploration of the dignity of difference that neither appropriates nor colonizes the other in Orientalist terms. Scripting cultural difference, the narrative metaphorizes the repressed underside of all cultural constructs: namely, death and abjection.
Elias Canetti's The Voices of Marrakesh is a belated...
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SOURCE: Eigler, Friederike. “‘Fissures in the Monument’: Reassessing Elias Canetti's Autobiographical Works.” In Critical Essays on Elias Canetti, edited by David Darby, pp. 261-75. New York: G. K. Hall and Co., 2000.
[In the following essay, Eigler argues against the critical notion of continuity throughout an author's canon, finding Canetti to be a thoroughly “heterogeneous” author.]
In his 1976 lecture “Der Beruf des Dichters” (“The Writer's Profession”), Elias Canetti is critical of authors who write the same book over and over again.1 Canetti himself penned, over the course of 60 years, a relatively small number of very different works: the early novel Die Blendung (1935; Auto-da-Fé), several dramas, the monumental anthropological study Masse und Macht (1960; Crowds and Power), a travelogue of his trip to Marrakesh (1968), numerous essays, a three-volume autobiography (1977-1985), and several volumes of Aufzeichnungen, that is, collections of notes and aphorisms.2 Despite this heterogeneous production, which spanned a large part of the twentieth century, the reception of his works is dominated by the assumption of a homogeneous oeuvre. This applies to the earlier phase of academic and journalistic attention—following the award of the Nobel Prize to Canetti in 1981—which was predominantly...
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SOURCE: Burt, Raymond L. “Autobiography as Reconciliation: The Literary Function of Elias Canetti's Die gerettete Zunge.” In Modern Austrian Prose Interpretations and Insights, edited by Paul F. Dvorak, pp. 129-49. Riverside, Calif.: Ariadne Press, 2001.
[In the following essay, Burt identifies ways in which Die gerettete Zunge differs from later volumes of Canetti's autobiography—namely, the book's narrative and literary construct closely resembles the novel genre.]
In 1977 Elias Canetti published Die gerettete Zunge: Geschichte einer Jugend. Usually this work is viewed as the first installment of his autobiographical trilogy, but there are compelling reasons to examine this work separately from the later volumes. Die gerettete Zunge reads like a well-constructed fictional work, not in that it resolves various plot entanglements, but in its narrative stance, its use of motifs, the poetic power of its descriptions and the development of a thematic plot. While obviously a chronological continuation of the childhood covered by Die gerettete Zunge, the two sequels, Die Fackel in Ohr and Das Augenspiel, exhibit stronger teleological functions due perhaps to the fact that the author of these later volumes was, as of 1981, a Nobel Prize winner. Their emphasis centers on the development of the Dichter, the writer, i.e., the influences behind his...
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