Elias Canetti

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Elias Canetti 1905–

Bulgarian-born English novelist, essayist, and dramatist.

Canetti has been recognized as an important and original thinker by European critics for several decades. Only in the last ten years has he received a significant amount of attention in the United States. American critics are now analyzing Canetti's work and find him to be an intriguing literary figure whose work commands respect and careful scrutiny.

Canetti, who fled Austria with his parents and moved to London in 1938, was deeply disturbed by the social climate in Europe before the Second World War. He eventually became obsessed with "the conflict between culture and the mass mind." His acclaimed sole novel, Die Blendung (Auto-da-Fé, also published as Tower of Babel), is a social and political satire on the greed, cruelty, and intolerance of the mass mind for the individual who is both alienated from and victimized by it. The book was originally intended to be the first of eight dealing with madness and the distortion of reality in the contemporary world. Canetti later decided that Die Blendung sufficiently stated his views and the remaining volumes were never written. Masse und Macht (Crowds and Power) is, however, often described as a companion volume to Die Blendung. This treatise on the psychology of the masses is one of Canetti's most important works. It attempts to explain the origins, behavior, and significance of crowds as a force in society with an imaginativeness and forcefulness that led critics to read his other works with intense interest. Among these works is Der andere Prozess: Kafkas Briefe an Felice (The Other Trial: Kafka's Letters to Felice), an examination of Kafka through his letters to his fiancee, and a book of sketches entitled Der Ohrenzeuge: Fünfzig Charaktere (Earwitness: Fifty Characters) which collects personality traits into monstrous exaggerations as a protest against inflexible social attitudes.

Canetti's recently published autobiographical volumes, The Tongue Set Free and The Torch in My Ear deal with family influences upon Canetti during his childhood and adolescence and with the literary influences of his early adulthood, notably Karl Kraus and Franz Kafka.

Although some critics find Canetti's work over-detailed and unscientific, most believe that he writes in an original and compelling manner, incorporating metaphor, irony, and symbolism into his aphoristic style. Canetti won the prestigious Georg Büchner Prize in 1972 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1981.

(See also CLC, Vols. 3 and 14 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-24, rev. ed.)

Iris Murdoch

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To deal adequately with Crowds and Power one would have to be, like its author, a mixture of historian, sociologist, psychologist, philosopher and poet. One is certainly confronted here with something large and important: an extremely imaginative, original and massively documented theory of the psychology of crowds.

Using heterogeneous and very numerous sources, Dr. Canetti has built a structure which has the clarity, simplicity and explanatory flexibility of a metaphysical system. His view will not prove easy to 'place' in any familiar pattern or genealogy of ideas; nor has he himself given any help to would-be 'placers.' He quotes the most diverse and esoteric writers, but the names of Freud and Marx occur nowhere in his text (Freud is mentioned once in a note). This particular reticence, which reminds one of Wittgenstein, is the mark of the artist and of the confident, truly imaginative thinker….

The book falls roughly into two halves. The first half analyses, with an amazing wealth of illustration, the dynamics of different types of crowds and of 'packs,' a term used to denote a smaller, more rigidly structured and purposive crowd. The second part, which discusses how and why crowds obey rulers, deals...

(This entire section contains 911 words.)

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with the psychology of the despot. The key to the crowd, and to the crowd's master, Canetti finds in his central theory of 'command' and 'survival.'…

In the last part of the book, Canetti introduces another concept, that of 'transformation.' This specifically human talent has many uses but is most primitively a kind of protection. It is a danger to any would-be despot, whose corresponding passion is 'to unmask.' The book ends with a discussion of the case of Schreber, a paranoiac who wrote a detailed memoir of his delusional life. In this account Canetti finds all the characteristics of power and its relation to crowds which he has been analysing. 'It is only a step from the primitive medicine man to the paranoiac and from both of them to the despot of history.'…

I think Canetti's theory throws a great deal of light and precisely illuminates places which have hitherto been very dark. Marx has told us much about the dynamics of society. Freud has told us much about the human heart. But neither of them provides us [as does Canetti] with a satisfactory theoretical explanation of Hitler or an explanation, say, of the political power of a church over its adherents. (p. 337)

Ideally a 'theory' should be both centripetal and centrifugal, and this I think Dr. Canetti's theory triumphantly is. His book is full of starting points, embryo theories, sudden independent illuminations. When he says of Christianity, for instance, that it is a 'religion of lament' in which the 'hunting pack' expiates its guilt by turning into a 'lamenting pack', or when he speaks of the 'frenzy of increase' which in modern capitalism undermines the religion of lament, he is giving us new means of thinking which, as it were, contain their own ambiguities. Dr. Canetti might be the first to agree that concepts as well as men should enjoy the privileges of transformation. Rich concepts have histories. And precisely because Dr. Canetti's concepts are so rich I do not think we should be in too much of a hurry to see them as rigidly systematic.

This problem of the 'necessary incompleteness' of systems occurs to one particularly in relation to the 'moral' of Crowds and Power. Canetti speaks of power as fundamental to human nature and he analyses power with predominantly 'political' imagery…. Our most pressing need, as Canetti very movingly and convincingly argues at the end, is to control the 'survivor mania' of our rulers, and the key to this is 'the humanisation of command.' But how is command to be humanised? Canetti has not given us a psychology with which to picture the humanisation of command. Here rival science and indomitable morality stand ready to enter the argument. (pp. 337-38)

[We] have here that rare sense of being 'let out' into an entirely new region of thought. Canetti has done what philosophers ought to do, and what they used to do: he has provided us with new concepts. He has also shown, in ways which seem to me entirely fresh, the interaction of 'the mythical' with the ordinary stuff of human life. The mythical is not something 'extra'; we live in myth and symbol all the time.

Crowds and Power, one may add, is a marvellously rewarding book even if one were to read it without any theoretical interests at all. It is written in a simple, authoritative prose …, and it is radiant with imagination and humour. There are hundreds of memorable things…. The book is full of entertainments and provocations to thought. It is also a great original work on a vitally important subject, and provides us with an eminence from which we can take a new look at Marx and Freud. A large work of scholarship which is also a completely new work of theory is rare enough: and we should remind ourselves that in the obscure and disputed field of 'the study of human nature' we cannot rely only upon the piecemeal efforts of teams of merely competent scientists. We need and we shall always need the visions of great imaginers and solitary men of genius. (p. 338)

Iris Murdoch, "Mass, Might and Myth," in The Spectator (© 1962 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), No. 7002, September 7, 1962, pp. 337-38.

The Times Literary Supplement

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Between 1942 and 1948, Elias Canetti kept a kind of psychological and moral breviary, jotting down thoughts, feelings, nightmares forced on him by war and exile. Having denied himself recourse to imaginative writing, and turning more and more to the mythography and sociology of Crowds and Power, this fiercely intelligent, self-fascinated man sought to understand … the nature of the political catastrophe and of his own marginal condition. He wrote down his meditations only for himself, "in order not to suffocate".

Naturally enough, the result [Aufzeichnungen 1942–1948 (The Human Province)] is rather a rag-bag. There is a sprinkling of witty maxims…. There are various somewhat Kafkaesque germs for future stories or plays…. Then there are lengthier notes, sketches of consequent argument, dealing mainly with the soul-rending effect of war and of the destruction of central European values on Elias Canetti the writer and the Jew….

Mr. Canetti wondered also about the continued viability of literature, about the place of poetic form in an age of bestial turbulence…. A good deal of what Elias Canetti jots down about the intolerable weight of vain words, about the root mystery of the existence of different languages, about the danger of living a life in which verbal abstraction is master, is acute and moving. He touches on a central nerve when he remarks: "As a profession, literature is destructive: one should have greater fear of words." But being so incomplete, and at times banal, these Aufzeichnungen suggest that there is no great gain in making public, in solemnizing, what was meant to be intimate and provisional, a necessary striving to keep aloud the echo of the threatened self.

"Canetti's Cahiers," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1965; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission). No. 3306, July 8, 1965, p. 577.

The Times Literary Supplement

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In [Die Stimmen von Marrakesch (The Voices of Marrakesh)] Mr. Canetti appears as a traveller, and one would expect this traveller to combine the anthropological preoccupations of the author of Masse und Macht with the literary sophistication of Die Blendung. Yet he has written the straightest of travelogues, whose very virtue lies in the absence of theoretical disquisition, stylistic bravado or any other accretion that might have made this book a contribution either to science or to fiction.

Each of the short sections that make up the book concentrates on a particular aspect or experience of the Moroccan city which the author visited in 1954; each makes its impact by the vivid and direct rendering of things observed and heard—of camels and donkeys, streets and houses, men, women and children, beggars, merchants and artisans, Arabs, Berbers and Jews. The observer's and narrator's responses are part of the account, so that the book also complements Mr. Canetti's diaries as a biographical record; but whereas the diaries revealed his intellectual interests and speculations, the new book reveals emotional involvements and sympathies. The persona of the travelogue is not a fort espirit but almost a coeur simple, with an extraordinarily warm and spontaneous response to the most basic phenomena of human life and animal life.

Basic is the word, since Marrakesh provided abundant instances of animals and human beings reduced to little more than hunger, endurance and lust. It is the celebrations of the life urge in those conditions—often with a dignity in extremis not to be found in more advanced societies—that animates and unifies all the sections that constitute this book. Although Mr. Canetti does not leave out his personal reactions to the cruelty, piety, greed and stoicism that he found in Marrakesh, a true gift of empathy has enabled him to enter deeply into a primitive order alien to his assumptions, and to affirm it simply by letting its phenomena speak for themselves. What he gives us is something quite different from the long awaited second novel; but it is a fascinating and moving book.

"Life Urge in Extremis," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1968; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3479, October 31, 1968, p. 1219.

Idris Parry

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In Der Ohrenzeuge Elias Canetti has gone back to a literary form at least as old as Theophrastus. He describes fifty "Characters" or types. He too is protesting against the rigidity of outlook which can turn a human creature into a pathetic or dangerous insect. Not that he raises his voice in protest. He never raises his voice; the dagger effect of these studies comes from detachment and the restraint of prose, unsurprised as absurdity follows absurdity. Like several other recent German writers, Canetti is a scientist by academic training. This comes out in his work. There is no stated moral judgment; the facts are left to speak for themselves. We seem to be reading through a handbook of scientific information, told in the simple prose which occasionally occurs in handbooks of scientific information. No names are given, no personal names, only strange generic titles, male and female, for specimens pinned and delineated….

This literary form depends on the existence of fixed ideas—and Canetti is a specialist in the observation of fixed ideas, as we know from the protagonists of his novel, Die Blendung. He is fascinated by the delusions of people who live in capsules. Now, in different words and different people, he presents fresh variations on the selective blindness of Peter Kien and the paranoia of Therese and Pfaff in that novel.

If the prose of this primer seems appropriately naive, the "facts" are extraordinary….

Canetti furthers the alliance between science and art as he realizes the utmost potential of any visible situation and finds the unsuspected behind the familiar. He is an admirer of Gogol. In these portrayals we find a similar touch of mad exuberance, like the Gogol description of a character who gets up from the gaming table and stands for a while "in the posture of a man who has no handkerchief in his pocket". Such writers surprise us into belief, largely because they show no surprise at all. They are merely telling us the irrational facts of their life. In such moments we can believe there are vibrations which have always existed but have not been registered up to now: we needed instruments of new-found sensitivity called writers.

Idris Parry, "Unsuspected Vibrations," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3801, January 10, 1975, p. 38.

Marion E. Wiley

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Since reflective thought is of central importance in Canetti's writing, this discussion regards his prose as provocative reflections—provocative in a dual sense—first, to Canetti, who intentionally writes to stimulate his thought; and secondly, to readers reacting to his observations. (p. 130)

The element of reflection is especially visible in the notations, the Aufzeichnungen, where Canetti covers innumerable topics in a variety of concise forms. The provocative quality stems most directly from the dialectical structure of the short commentaries, with Canetti seeking new ideas by means of opposing suppositions. Each notation can stand alone as an independent, excursive observation, but collectively the notations constitute intellectual explorations of diverse regions. The fifty sketches included in Der Ohrenzeuge … and the recollective narrative of Die Stimmen von Marrakesch … are also explorative. Like the Aufzeichnungen they investigate human motives and attain a timelessness which transcends but does not ignore intellectual questions of contemporary concern.

As is true of most reflective writing, his prose requires the concentration of the reader and would therefore not appeal to the casual erudite…. The prose appeals rather to the analytical reader who reacts to Canetti's observations and then formulates a personal commentary. Canetti also writes in this additive manner, developing his ideas in response to his initial thoughts and to the observations of others. (pp. 130-31)

Still Canetti's prose demands more of the reader than concentration and analysis; a receptivity to the thematic and structural diversity of his prose is also a prerequisite. In addition to his familiar themes of power, the masses, death, and transformation, the reader also encounters general observations on language, religion, culture, and aspects of contemporary life, such as the implications of lunar exploration and the position of the poet in modern society….

Canetti's prose thus covers a wide range of topics, which he often develops dialectically or by tangential digression. (p. 132)

[Other] factors suggest that Canetti has written a prose of provocative reflections. His diverse approaches to a given topic, for example, attest to his purposeful communication of reflective thought. He can be succinct, shocking, humorous, or contradictory; and sometimes he is all of these at once…. (p. 134)

Yet Canetti's numerous commentaries on any one topic are not simply repetition but rather continuations of discussions. His frequent reflections about death fall in this category, for they are deliberate attempts to widen his perception of the subject. In steadily pursuing topics over the years Canetti also practices his belief in the continuous examination of crucial issues. It is apparent, however, that he views his reflections in a larger context. His aggressive rejection of death is a case in point: rejection of death is essential to a full exploration of life. His preoccupation with death is then related to his belief in the possibility of intellectual growth and subsequent change…. Since he does not consider death in the sense of mental deterioration to be inevitable, he relentlessly rejects intellectual decline in principle and in practice. His remarks about death are thus part of his energetic support of life, which he defends against life's most formidable opponent, death.

Equally striking is the extent of Canetti's respect for life. He does not limit his concern but extends his sympathy to all living beings from the rabid camel to the human bundle crouching on the ground, two extreme cases vividly depicted in Die Stimmen von Marrakesch…. His concern for human beings is also the motivating force behind his character sketches, where he exposes individuals committed only to self-aggrandizement. Canetti is concerned about them and recognizes the need for objective awareness of their existence…. At the same time his belief in the potential of mankind enables him to criticize with a measure of moderation. He is able to reveal imperfection without irreversibly indicting the individual or condemning mankind to its imperfect state. Canetti's reluctance to draw premature conclusions thus stands the individual in good stead, allowing, as it does, for the further development of character.

In much the same way the critic of Canetti is reluctant to draw final conclusions about Canetti's evolving prose…. [The] critic accustomed to the desperate confusion reflected in the literature of the later twentieth century may be moved to note that the reflective writing of Canetti is a stimulating and complementary addition to contemporary prose. It is stimulating to share ideas with an author who verbalizes his thoughts with clarity, frequent wit, and appropriate compassion. It is also encouraging to encounter the refutation of inevitability and the advocacy of spirited inquiry. In this respect Canetti is the antipode to the writer who records primarily the spiritual malnutrition of contemporary society and the resulting loss of illusions. Canetti possesses a view of life which impels him to search for alternative approaches to existence. (pp. 135-36)

Canetti's commitment to the investigation of existence is perceptible in all of his writings, and in his essay Der Beruf des Dichters … he directly discusses the position of the poet in modern society. In his opinion authors must assume responsibility for the condition of man even though they can not necessarily prevent disasters by means of their words. This sense of responsibility, nourished by learning and compassion, serves as an example and helps mankind to seek its own transformation. He leaves no doubt about the obligation of the poet…. [Canetti maintains that] the poet must resist the ambassadors of nihilism and fight them with all his strength. In place of capitulation Canetti sets exploration, and the goal is the comprehension of life's multiplicity, including both its chaotic defeats and its victories…. (p. 136)

Canetti thus views the poet as a responsible and committed explorer of life, a description which we may appropriately apply to Canetti himself. In doing so we also acknowledge his main communication, namely, that mankind is still alive and capable of discovering, perhaps even saving, itself. This type of discovery interests Canetti, and his reflective prose attests to the success of his intellectual explorations. In respect to this achievement his prose is a unique contribution to contemporary writing, and his belated reception in the seventies is a noteworthy entry for a history of German literary reception. (p. 137)

Marion E. Wiley, "Elias Canetti's Reflective Prose" (a revision of a presentation made at the Modern Language Association meeting on December 28, 1977), in Modern Austrian Literature (© copyright International Arthur Schnitzler Research Association 1979), Vol. 12, No. 2, 1979, pp. 129-39.

Michael Wood

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"The Voices of Marrakesh" is a terse and sensitive record of a visit to Morocco. "Earwitness" is a set of fantastic character sketches, a human bestiary containing creatures like the Bittertangler, the Never-must, the Name-licker, the Corpse-skulker, the Long-changer, the Narrow-smeller, the God-swanker, the Moon Cousin, the Bequeathed Man and 40-odd more. Both books reveal Mr. Canetti's talent for what he calls precise exaggeration…. Of the two, "Earwitness" points us more clearly toward Mr. Canetti's other works. Its characters are weakest when they are closest to recognizable types and strongest when they gather scattered human traits into composite monsters….

This tells us something, I think, about the virtues and liabilities of Mr. Canetti's imagination, and it helps us bring the laborious "Auto-Da-Fe" into proper focus. The exaggerations of this schematic story of a man who loved books and hated women are not precise, they are simply methodical. The novel has one or two grand and lurid epigrams—"Man is the only deformity"—but its ironies keep freezing into whimsy, and we are left with the dogged pursuit of stereotypes like the scholar and the harpy and the vengeful dwarf. There is nothing in the book that has the force or the edge of Mr. Canetti's later, more casual jottings…. (p. 11)

[The] best portrait we have of Mr. Canetti is "The Human Province," a selection from 30 years' worth of notes, many of them made while he was writing "Crowds and Power," which he regards as his "life's work." Only here do we get a clear sense of this prickly, ambitious, intelligent and sometimes silly man. The other books are more secretive, and a lot more solemn…. (pp. 11, 58)

[It] is in "The Human Province" that he reveals his doubts and makes his jokes. He is fascinated by anthropology, he says, because "I think I have truth itself in my hands…. It is the mirage of the greater clarity of relatively simple conditions." More than half of "Crowds and Power" rests without hesitation or apology on this very mirage, the belief that primitive life will disclose all of civilization's secrets….

"Crowds and Power" is the most displaced book imaginable: its real subject, the masses of this century and the dictators associated with them, constantly being buried among Moguls and Mongol, and all sorts of ethnological lore. Partly this is a matter of tact: Mr. Canetti expects us to remember horrors closer at hand, and doesn't wish to blackmail us with them. Partly it is a result of the enormity of the subject, which drives the student back on analogies, sends him to the massacres of another time and place. But mainly, I think, the displacement comes from Mr. Canetti's method. He wants to know what crowds really are, what power really is, and he won't stop until he has a single, reductive answer.

This urge is what produces the frequently circular logic of the book—Mr. Canetti decides what a crowd is and then excludes all deviant crowds on the ground that they are not the real thing—as well as its insistent regressions. Having described dozens of mobs without having come up with more than a handful of banalities …, he retreats to the notion of the pack, and begins a new taxonomy (the hunting pack, the war pack, the lamenting pack, the increase pack, with further subdivisions among them).

Mr. Canetti is absolutely undaunted by the obvious …, but he will not deceive himself, and he knows his method cannot give him what he wants. Yet he won't abandon the method, he just moves it from territory to territory, and so the principal effect of "Crowds and Power" is that of a fascinating, example-packed book that keeps getting lost.

When it is lost, it indulges in all sorts of nonsense—sees teeth as the first manifestation of order, for example, and the mouth as the model of a prison…. It can scarcely be [wrong or right] because we are in a realm of speculation that lies beyond all possibility of argument. This is worth insisting on, because as Mr. Canetti in fact suggests, he is not at all clear on the point himself.

In one passage he contends that "no social event whatever, of any kind" can be understood without a knowledge of the ways his different packs turn into one another. Mr. Canetti's schemes cannot help us to an understanding of social events, because social events are the book's material, the building blocks with which Mr. Canetti constructs his lofty imitation of a collective human mind….

"Crowds and Power," then, is allegorical even when it is not lost; it's more elusive than it looks. But it is time to turn to the principal arguments of this troublesome book—I mean troublesome, as Mr. Canetti would no doubt take it, as a compliment. After his descriptions of crowds and packs and the toothy excursion into fantastic biology, Mr. Canetti offers an account of the figure he calls the survivor A survivor, for Mr. Canetti, always survives someone. He must contemplate the corpses of those he has outlived…. [We] all get the feeling, Mr. Canetti insists, in any graveyard. It is as if we had defeated the dead. Heroes are people who try to pile up such moments of survival, and tyrants are people who live for them. "To be the last man to remain alive is the deepest urge of every real seeker after power." (p. 58)

There are all kinds of things wrong with this argument, not the least of which are its rather excited cynicism and its indifference to the fact that people have been known to want to die. But it is not a trivial argument, and a film such as "The Deer Hunter," with its image of war as a form of Russian roulette, in which fortune and survival are simply equated, reminds us that the argument needs long and careful inspection.

The other principal argument of "Crowds and Power" concerns command. After some dubious guessing about the animal origins of the phenomenon, Mr. Canetti arrives at his human thesis: A command that is obeyed leaves its sting. Life for most of us is full of commands, and consequently we are riddled with stings, ruled by our stings…. The command, Mr. Canetti says, in his usual strident tone, is "the most dangerous single element in the social life of mankind."

What are we to do? We must stop apologizing for power, and where we can we must stop obeying commands, because disobeyed commands leave no sting…. Mr. Canetti's formulations are far too hectic and simple. For the moment it will do if we see that we cannot argue with him without defending power, and that should slow us down a little.

But as Mr. Canetti suggests, his published arguments are not his life; and his life … is what matters. His life as a writer, that is, his career as a man committed to language, hating death and cruelty, a man who never excepted himself from his own indictments, and who did not give up on a task that must have seemed endless. He is a man, if I may reverse [a phrase of his], whom the century grabbed by the throat. (pp. 58-9)

Michael Wood, "The Precise Exaggerator," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 29, 1979, pp. 11, 58-9.

Susan Sontag

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Auto-da-Fé—the title in German is Die Blendung [The Blinding]—depicts the recluse as a book-besotted naïf who must undergo an epic of humiliation. The tranquilly celibate Professor Kien, a renowned Sinologist, is ensconced in his top-floor apartment with his twenty-five thousand books—books on all subjects, feeding a mind of unrelenting avidity. He does not know how horrible life is; will not know until he is separated from his books. Philistinism and mendacity appear in the form of a woman, ever the principle of anti-mind in this mythology of the intellectual: the reclusive scholar in the sky marries his housekeeper, a character as monstrous as any in the paintings of George Grosz or Otto Dix—and is pitched into the world.

Canetti relates that he first conceived Auto-da-Fé—he was twenty-four—as one of eight books, the main character of each to be a monomaniac and the whole cycle to be called "The Human Comedy of Madmen." But only the novel about "the bookman" (as Kien was called in early drafts), and not, say, the novels about the religious fanatic, the collector, or the technological visionary, got written. In the guise of a book about a lunatic—that is, as hyperbole—Auto-da-Fé purveys familiar clichés about unworldly, easily duped intellectuals and is animated by an exceptionally inventive hatred for women. It is impossible not to regard Kien's derangement as variations on his author's most cherished exaggerations. "The limitation to a particular, as though it were everything, is too despicable," Canetti noted—The Human Province is full of such Kien-like avowals. The author of the condescending remarks about women preserved in these notebooks might have enjoyed fabulating the details of Kien's delirious misogyny. And one can't help supposing that some of Canetti's work practices are evoked in the novel's account of a prodigious scholar plying his obsessional trade, afloat in a sea of manias and schemes of order-liness. Indeed, one would be surprised to learn that Canetti doesn't have a large, scholarly, but unspecialized library with the range of Kien's. This sort of library building has nothing to do with the book collecting that Benjamin memorably described, which is a passion for books as material objects (rare books, first editions). It is, rather the materialization of an obsession whose ideal is to put the books inside one's head; the real library is only a mnemonic system. Thus Canetti has Kien sitting at his desk and composing a learned article without turning a single page of his books, except in his head.

Auto-da-Fé depicts the stages of Kien's madness as three relations of "head" and "world"—Kien secluded with his books as "a head without a world"; adrift in the bestial city, "a world without a head"; driven to suicide by "the world in the head." And this was not language suitable only for the mad bookman; Canetti later used it in his notebooks to describe himself, as when he called his life nothing but a desperate attempt to think about everything "so that it comes together in a head and thus becomes one again," affirming the very fantasy he had pilloried in Auto-da-Fé.

The heroic avidity thus described in his notebooks is the same goal Canetti had proclaimed at sixteen—"to learn everything"—for which, he relates in The Tongue Set Free, his mother denounced him as selfish and irresponsible. To covet, to thirst, to long for—these are passionate but also acquisitive relations to knowledge and truth; Canetti recalls a time when, never without scruples, he "even invented elaborate excuses and rationales for having books." The more immature the avidity, the more radical the fantasies of throwing off the burden of books and learning. Auto-da-Fé, which ends with the bookman immolating himself with his books, is the earliest and crudest of these fantasies. Canetti's later writings project more wistful, prudent fantasies of disburdenment. A note from 1951: "His dream: to know everything he knows and yet not know it."

Published in 1935 to praise from Broch, Thomas Mann, and others, Auto-da-Fé was Canetti's first book (if one does not count a play he wrote in 1932) and only novel, the product of an enduring taste for hyperbole and a fascination with the grotesque that became in later works more static, considerably less apocalyptic. Earwitness … is like an abstract distillation of the novel-cycle about lunatics Canetti conceived when he was in his twenties. This short book consists of rapid sketches of fifty forms of monomania, of "characters" such as the Corpse-Skulker, the Fun Runner, the Narrow-Smeller, the Misspeaker, the Woe Administrator; fifty characters and no plot. The ungainly names suggest an inordinate degree of self-consciousness about literary invention—for Canetti is a writer who endlessly questions, from the vantage of the moralist, the very possibility of making art. "If one knows a lot of people," he had noted years earlier, "it seems almost blasphemous to invent more." (pp. 186-88)

Canetti's ideals of patience and his irrepressible feeling for the grotesque are united in his impressions of a trip to Morocco, The Voices of Marrakesh…. The book's vignettes of minimal survival present the grotesque as a form of heroism: a pathetic skeletal donkey with a huge erection; and the most wretched of beggars, blind children begging and, atrocious to imagine, a brown bundle emitting a single sound (e-e-e-e-e-e) which is brought every day to a square in Marrakesh to collect alms and to which Canetti pays a moving, characteristic tribute: "I was proud of the bundle because it was alive."

Humility is the theme of another work of this period, "Kafka's Other Trial," written in 1969, which treats Kafka's life as an exemplary fiction and offers a commentary on it. Canetti relates the drawn-out calamity of Kafka's engagement to Felice Bauer (Kafka's letters to Felice had just been published) as a parable about the secret victory of the one who chooses failure, who "withdraws from power in whatever form it might appear." He notes with admiration that Kafka often identifies with weak small animals, finding in Kafka his own feelings about the renunciation of power. In fact, in the force of his testimony to the ethical imperative of siding with the humiliated and the powerless, he seems closer to Simone Weil, another great expert on power, whom he never mentions. Canetti's identification with the powerless lies outside history, however; the epitome of powerlessness for Canetti is not, say, oppressed people but animals. Canetti, who is not a Christian, does not conceive of any intervention or active partisanship. Neither is he resigned. Incapable of insipidity or satiety, Canetti advances the model of a mind always reacting, registering shocks and trying to outwit them.

The aphoristic writing of his notebooks is fast knowledge—in contrast to the slow knowledge distilled in Crowds and Power. "My task," he wrote in 1949, a year after he began writing it, "is to show how complex selfishness is." For such a long book, it is very tense. His rapidity wars with his tenacity. The somewhat laborious, assertive writer who set out to write a tome that will "grab this century by the throat" interferes with, and is interfered with by, a concise writer who is more playful, more insolent, more puzzled, more scornful. (pp. 189-90)

Most of Canetti's entries take up the aphorist's traditional themes: the hypocrisies of society, the vanity of human wishes, the sham of love, the ironies of death, the pleasure and necessity of solitude, and the intricacies of one's own thought processes.

Most of the great aphorists have been pessimists, purveyors of scorn for human folly. ("The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other well," Canetti has noted.) Aphoristic thinking is informal, unsociable, adversarial, proudly selfish. "One needs friends mainly in order to become impudent—that is, more oneself," Canetti writes: there is the authentic tone of the aphorist. (pp. 190-91)

Despite having much of the aphorist's temperament, Canetti is anything but an intellectual dandy. (He is the opposite of, say, Gottfried Benn.) Indeed, the great limit of Canetti's sensibility is the absence of the slightest trace of the aesthete. Canetti shows no love of art as such. He has his roster of Great Writers, but no painting, theater, film, dance, or the other familiars of humanist culture figure in his work. Canetti appears to stand rather grandly above the impacted ideas of "culture" or "art." He does not love anything the mind fabricates for its own sake. His writing, therefore, has little irony. No one touched by the aesthetic sensibility would have noted, severely, "What often bothers me about Montaigne is the fat on the quotations." There is nothing in Canetti's temperament that could respond to Surrealism, to speak only of the most persuasive modern option for the aesthete. Nor, it would seem, was he ever touched by the temptation of the left.

A dedicated enlightener, he describes the object of his struggle as the one faith left intact by the Enlightenment, "the most preposterous of all, the religion of power." Here is the side of Canetti that reminds one of Karl Kraus, for whom the ethical vocation is endless protest. But no writer is less a journalist than Canetti. To protest against power, power as such; to protest against death (he is one of the great death-haters of literature)—these are broad targets, rather invincible enemies. Canetti describes Kafka's work as a "refutation" of power, and this is Canetti's aim in Crowds and Power. All of his work, however, aims at a refutation of death. A refutation seems to mean for Canetti an inordinate insisting. Canetti insists that death is really unacceptable; unassimilable, because it is what is outside life; unjust, because it limits ambition and nsults it. He refuses to understand death, as Hegel suggested, as something within life—as the consciousness of death, finitude, mortality. In matters of death Canetti is an unregenerate, appalled materialist, and unrelentingly quixotic. (pp. 191-92)

In The Tongue Set Free Canetti is eager to do justice to each of his admirations, which is a way of keeping someone alive. Typically, Canetti also means this literally. Displaying his usual unwillingness to be reconciled to extinction, Canetti recalls a teacher in boarding school and concludes: "In case he is still in the world today, at ninety or one hundred, I would like him to know I bow to him."

This first volume of his autobiography is dominated by the history of a profound admiration: that of Canetti for his mother. It is the portrait of one of the great teacher-parents, a zealot of European high culture self-confidently at work before the time that turned such a parent into a selfish tyrant and such a child into an "overachiever," to use the philistine label which conveys the contemporary disdain for precocity and intellectual ardor. (pp. 192-93)

Canetti gives a complex account of that extraordinary process which learning is for an intellectually precocious child—fuller and more instructive than the accounts in, say, Mill's Autobiography or Sartre's The Words. For Canetti's capacities as an admirer reflect tireless skills as a learner; the first cannot be deep without the second. As an exceptional learner, Canetti has an irrepressible loyalty to teachers, to what they do well even (or especially when) they do it inadvertently. The teacher at his boarding school to whom he now "bows" won his fealty by being brutal during a class visit to a slaughterhouse. Forced by him to confront a particularly gruesome sight, Canetti learned that the murder of animals was something "I wasn't meant to get over." His mother, even when she was brutal, was always feeding his flagrant alertness with her words. Canetti says proudly, "I find mute knowledge dangerous."

Canetti claims to be a "hear-er" rather than a "see-er." In Auto-da-Fé, Kien practices being blind, for he has discovered that "blindness is a weapon against time and space; our being is one vast blindness." Particularly in his work since Crowds and Power—such as the didactically titled The Voices of Marrakesh, Earwitness, The Tongue Set Free—Canetti stresses the moralist's organ, the ear, and slights the eye (continuing to ring changes on the theme of blindness). Hearing, speaking, and breathing are praised whenever something important is at stake, if only in the form of ear, mouth (or tongue), and throat metaphors. When Canetti observes that "the loudest passage in Kafka's work tells of this guilt with respect to the animals," the adjective is itself a form of insistence.

What is heard is voices—to which the ear is a witness. (Canetti does not talk about music, nor indeed about any art that is nonverbal.) The ear is the attentive sense, humbler, more passive, more immediate, less discriminating than the eye. Canetti's disavowal of the eye is an aspect of his remoteness from the aesthete's sensibility, which typically affirms the pleasures and the wisdom of the visual; that is, of surfaces. To give sovereignty to the ear is an obtrusive, consciously archaizing theme in Canetti's later work. Implicitly he is restating the archaic gap between Hebrew as opposed to Greek culture, ear culture as opposed to eye culture, and the moral versus the aesthetic.

Canetti equates knowing with hearing, and hearing with hearing everything and still being able to respond. The exotic impressions garnered during his stay in Marrakesh are unified by the quality of attentiveness to "voices" that Canetti tries to summon in himself. Attentiveness is the formal subject of the book. Encountering poverty, misery, and deformity, Canetti undertakes to hear, that is, really to pay attention to words, cries, and inarticulate sounds "on the edge of the living."… The voice for Canetti stands for irrefutable presence. To treat someone as a voice is to grant authority to that person; to affirm that one hears means that one hears what must be heard.

Like a scholar in a Borges story that mixes real and imaginary erudition, Canetti has a taste for fanciful blends of knowledge, eccentric classifications, and spirited shifts of tone. Thus Crowds and Power … offers analogies from physiology and zoology to explain command and obedience; and is perhaps most original when it extends the notion of the crowd to include collective units, not composed of human beings, which "recall" the crowd, are "felt to be a crowd," which "stand as a symbol for it in myth, dream, speech, and song." (Among such units—in Canetti's ingenious catalogue—are fire, rain, the fingers of the hand, the bee swarm, teeth, the forest, the snakes of delirium tremens.) Much of Crowds and Power depends on latent or inadvertent science-fiction imagery of things, or parts of things, that become eerily autonomous; of unpredictable movements, tempos, volumes Canetti turns time (history) into space, in which a weird array of biomorphic entities—the various forms of the Great Beast, the crowd—disport themselves. The crowd moves, emits, grows, expands, contracts. Its options come in pairs: crowds are said by Canetti to be quick and slow, rhythmic and stagnant, closed and open. The pack (another version of the crowd) laments, it preys, it is tranquil, it is outward or inward.

As an account of the psychology and structure of authority, Crowds and Power harks back to nineteenth-century talk about crowds and masses in order to expound its poetics of political nightmare…. But whereas earlier writers had been content to assert the crowd's pathology and moralize about it, Canetti means to explain, explain exhaustively, for example, the crowd's destructiveness ("often mentioned as its most conspicuous quality," he says) with his biomorphic paradigms. And unlike Le Bon, who was making a case against revolution and for the status quo (considered by Le Bon the less oppressive dictatorship), Canetti offers a brief against power itself.

To understand power by considering the crowd, to the detriment of notions like "class" or "nation," is precisely to insist on an ahistorical understanding. Hegel and Marx are not mentioned, not because Canetti is so self-confident that he won't deign to drop the usual names, but because the implications of Canetti's argument are sharply anti-Hegelian and anti-Marxist. His ahistorical method and conservative political temper bring Canetti rather close to Freud—though he is in no sense a Freudian. Canetti is what Freud might have been were he not a psychologist: using many sources that were important to Freud—the autobiography of the psychotic Judge Schreber, material on anthropology and the history of ancient religions, Le Bon's crowd theory—he comes to quite different conclusions about group psychology and the shaping of the ego. Like Freud, Canetti tends to find the prototype of crowd (that is, irrational) behavior in religion, and much of Crowds and Power is really a rationalist's discourse about religion. For example, what Canetti calls the lamenting pack is just another name for religions of lament, of which he gives a dazzling analysis, contrasting the slow tempos of Catholic piety and ritual (expressing the Church's perennial fear of the open crowd) with the frenzied mourning in the Shi'ite branch of Islam.

Like Freud, too, Canetti dissolves politics into pathology, treating society as a mental activity—a barbaric one, of course—that must be decoded. Thus he moves, without breaking stride, from the notion of the crowd to the "crowd symbol," and analyzes social grouping and the forms of community as transactions of crowd symbols. Some final turn of the crowd argument seems to have been reached when Canetti puts the French Revolution in its place, finding the Revolution less interesting as an eruption of the destructive than as a "national crowd symbol" for the French.

For Hegel and his successors, the historical (the home of irony) and the natural are two radically different processes. In Crowds and Power, history is "natural." Canetti argues to history, not from it. First comes the account of the crowd; then, as illustration, the section called "The Crowd in History." History is used only to furnish examples—a rapid use. Canetti is partial to the evidence of historyless (in the Hegelian sense) peoples, treating anthropological anecdotes as having the same illustrative value as an event taking place in an advanced historical society.

Crowds and Power is an eccentric book—made literally eccentric by its ideal of "universality," which leads Canetti to avoid making the obvious reference: Hitler. He appears indirectly, in the central importance Canetti gives to the case of Judge Schreber. (Here is Canetti's only reference to Freud—in one discreet footnote, where Canetti says that had Freud lived a bit longer he might have seen Schreber's paranoid delusions in a more pertinent way: as a prototype of the political, specifically Nazi, mentality.) But Canetti is genuinely not Eurocentric—one of his large achievements as a mind. Conversant with Chinese as well as European thought, with Buddhism and Islam as well as Christianity, Canetti enjoys a remarkable freedom from reductive habits of thinking. He seems incapable of using psychological knowledge in a reductive way…. (pp. 195-200)

His protest against seeing historically is directed not just against that most plausible of reductionisms. It is also a protest against death. To think about history is to think about the dead; and to be incessantly reminded that one is mortal. Canetti's thought is conservative in the most literal sense. It—he—does not want to die.

"I want to feel everything in me before I think it," Canetti wrote in 1943, and for this, he says, he needs a long life. To die prematurely means having not fully engorged himself and, therefore, having not used his mind as he could. It is almost as if Canetti had to keep his consciousness in a permanent state of avidity, to remain unreconciled to death…. Recurrent images of needing to feel everything inside himself, of unifying everything in one head, illustrate Canetti's attempts through magical thinking and moral clamorousness to "refute" death. (pp. 200-01)

[Plausible] doom is just what Canetti cannot admit. He is unperturbed by the possibility of the flagging of appetite, the satiation of desire, the devaluation of passion. Canetti gives no thought to the decomposition of the feelings any more than of the body, only to the persistence of the mind. Rarely has anyone been so at home in the mind, with so little ambivalence.

Canetti is someone who has felt in a profound way the responsibility of words, and much of his work makes the effort to communicate something of what he has learned about how to pay attention to the world. There is no doctrine, but there is a great deal of scorn, urgency, grief, and euphoria. The message of the mind's passions is passion. "I try to imagine someone saying to Shakespeare, 'Relax!'" says Canetti. His work eloquently defends tension, exertion, moral and amoral seriousness.

But Canetti is not just another hero of the will. Hence the unexpected last attribute of a great writer that he finds in Broch: such a writer, he says, teaches us how to breathe. Canetti commends Broch's writings for their "rich store of breathing experience." It was Canetti's deepest, oddest compliment, and therefore one he also paid to Goethe (the most predictable of his admirations): Canetti also reads Goethe as saying, "Breathe!" Breathing may be the most radical of occupations, when construed as a liberation from other needs such as having a career, building a reputation, accumulating knowledge. What Canetti says at the end of this progress of admiration, his homage to Broch, suggests what there is most to admire. The last achievement of the serious admirer is to stop immediately putting to work the energies aroused by, filling up the space opened by, what is admired. Thereby talented admirers give themselves permission to breathe, to breathe more deeply. But for that it is necessary to go beyond avidity; to identify with something beyond achievement, beyond the gathering of power. (pp. 203-04)

Susan Sontag, "Mind As Passion" (originally published in a different form in The New York Review of Books, Vol. XXVII, No. 14, September 25, 1980), in her Under the Sign of Saturn (reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc.; copyright © 1980 by Susan Sontag), Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980, pp. 181-204.

Anatole Broyard

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Though Kafka's "Letters to Felice" chronicles one of the most bizarre love affairs in the entire history of that emotion, it is not every reader who can get through its 600 pages. We ought to be grateful, then, to Elias Canetti …, for in "Kafka's Other Trial" he summarizes the letters, interprets them in the light of Kafka's character and relates them to his books.

According to Mr. Canetti, Kafka's "trial" with Felice closely parallels his novel "The Trial." His engagement becomes Joseph K.'s arrest in the first chapter. And what his letters call the "tribunal"—a meeting with Felice and her parents in which they agree to end the engagement—corresponds to the final scene in "The Trial" when Joseph K. is executed….

"Any life is laughable," Mr. Canetti observes, "if one knows it well enough. It is something serious and terrible if one knows it even better." In "Kafka's Other Trial," both these aspects, the comic and the tragic, are present. What is amazing is that Kafka himself, who had a brilliant sense of humor, did not see the comedy of his five-year engagement to Felice.

Though Mr. Canetti's interpretations of Kafka's letters to Felice are certainly interesting, it does seem that it required no great acumen to arrive at them. One leaves "Kafka's Other Trial" feeling rather hungry, sensing that there is much more that might have been said.

Anatole Broyard, "Letter-Writing Lover," in The New York Times (© 1982 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 27, 1982, p. 15.

Alfred Kazin

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"The Torch in My Ear" is the second volume of [Canetti's] autobiography; the first was "The Tongue Set Free: Remembrance of a European Childhood."… The most arresting passages in both books deal with his mother and the long battle between them. But neither book is as important as "Auto-Da-Fé" or "Crowds and Power." As the very titles indicate, Canetti is more at ease writing cultural history than offering us personal revelation.

"The Tongue Set Free" was about his literary ambitions and his efforts to avoid the business career that his wealthy relatives all over Europe designated for him after the sudden death of his father as a young man. "The Torch in My Ear" refers to the overwhelming influence on the young Canetti of the powerful satirist Karl Kraus, who not only wrote every word in his own magazine, Die Fackel (The Torch), but gave public readings that spellbound young intellectuals in Vienna….

My complaint about Canetti as an autobiographer is that he is analytic about many individuals in his life who did not have the emotional influence on him of his strident mother and intrusive relatives. He seems to be so reclusive by nature that he is not only hostile to crowds but unwilling to report any erotic relationships in life. He is so dedicated to the analysis of marginal personalities—a type with which he must identify—that too many pages of the autobiography are concerned with strangers, oddballs and freaks, who are presented not because they had any marked effect on him but because he is proud of being able to confront them sympathetically. He is too much the cultural historian to be interested in such powerless people; he is just setting himself up as a rival to Freud. Ironically, it is Freud the physician and not Canetti the novelist who really captures this sort of person on the page.

Canetti is significantly memorable about people he considers stronger than himself [such as Karl Kraus]. (p. 11)

The most vivid character in both of Canetti's volumes of autobiography, his mother, was also strong enough to dominate him. She was a constant reader, a constant hysteric after her husband's early death, a devotee of Strindberg and a snob. If she had not taught her son the best kind of German and insisted on his keeping up the highest standards in it, he might not have become the writer he did. At the same time, she tried to keep him from a literary career and was constantly at him to see the world in less theoretical and bookish terms. Yet arresting as this portrait is, it is somehow never whole; he reproduces her in bits and pieces, outburst by outburst, as if he had never quite recovered from her impact.

Recalling the 20's in Berlin, Canetti also gives us slashing portraits of Bertolt Brecht and Georg Grosz, neither of whom ever tried to be a nice fellow by Canetti's standards and who appear in this book as tyrants. The one totally sympathetic writer in Canetti's portrait gallery of the time is Isaac Babel, with whom Canetti identified not as a writer or as a Jew but because Babel, who came from the Russian city Odessa on the Black Sea, seemed to connect with Canetti's birth in a country that also bordered on the black Sea. Which goes to show you what Bulgaria, of all places, finally did for the strangely gifted Elias Canetti, whose autobiography is as odd as the circumstances of his life. (pp. 11, 34)

Alfred Kazin, "A Bookish Man's Book of Himself," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1982 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 19, 1982, pp. 11, 34.

Gary Giddins

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Despite a few gossipy portraits of writers and artists in 1920s Berlin, Elias Canetti's The Torch in My Ear—the second volume in a remarkable autobiography—can hold only marginal interest for readers unfamiliar with the scope of his work. Canetti has published relatively little in 50 years, but as with other models of literary diligence, notably Proust and Joyce, his books are of a piece. Almost every chapter of the autobiography presumes intimacy with the two great books that made Canetti's reputation, the novel Auto-da-Fé and the treatise Crowds and Power. As a third pinnacle, the memoirs sharpen and enrich the vision of the first two, while embodying Canetti's conviction that the "public and the private can no longer be separated." Until about 15 years ago, the private Canetti was a cipher even in Europe. But his recent books, culminating in the still incomplete memoirs (640 pages covering only 26 years), seem intent on giving the writer parity with his writings.

As novelist, philosopher, and autobiographer, Canetti, the intransigent moral witness, offers no moral codes, utopian dreams, or escape hatches for "our monstrous century." The only code to which he adheres absolutely—a writer's code—is to stand in undaunted opposition to his time…. He restates his ambition in one of the aphorisms collected in The Human Province: "To find the path through the labyrinth of one's own time without giving in to one's own time, and without jumping out." The autobiographical writings represent a third way of not jumping out, a third angle from which to ponder a lifetime's obsession with paranoia and power, the individual and crowds, death and God, the self and the world. Writing with the Flaubertian relish he admires in Kafka ("nothing is trivial so long as it is right"), he reinvents himself as a literary character, ruthlessly mining memory for clues to the enigma that is Elias Canetti. (pp. 1, 10)

Canetti's emotional and intellectual involvement with his mother is the central drama of his youth [covered in The Tongue Set Free (volume one of the autobiography)]. (p. 10)

The Torch in My Ear details the making of a writer, or at least the making of a writer's obsessions. Its relationship to the earlier books is complex; although Canetti carefully signposts the revelations and illuminations that put him on the trail of crowd psychology, he never draws connections between the events of his life and the plot and symbology of Auto-da-Fé. Part of the great pleasure to be had in this sometimes perversely detailed memoir is the experience of coming across bits of cloth that eventually became the fabric of the novel…. [Until] The Torch in My Ear, it was impossible to realize how much Auto-da-Fé was grounded in the reality of his boyhood observations—a reality shaken by fires, inflation, madness, and crowds, as well as a number of impressive people. Canetti came to worship Karl Kraus, the editor and sole writer of the polemical journal Die Fackel (The Torch). Constant attendance at Kraus's histrionic lectures helped Canetti develop his gift for parody and mimicry, but Kraus's activism seems to have been beyond his grasp. During a brief stay in Berlin, he came to admire Grosz (though the painter's lechery at a party offended him), hate Brecht (for a lover of Aristophanes, Canetti's dismissal of Three-penny Opera is unconvincing), and worship the owlish perceptiveness of Isaac Babel.

The most haunting people in this installment of Canetti's life, however, are his mother, with whom he is locked in a struggle much less paralyzing but no less constrained than Kafka's with his father, and Veza, an intelligent and rather mysterious woman whom Canetti later married. The Torch in My Ear concludes unsatisfactorily, in that the mother and Veza disappear from the narrative before those relationships are in any way resolved. He never mentions his marriage, or the response of either woman to the novel (though there are clues to his mother's astonishment in The Tongue Set Free). Presumably, these matters will be taken up in the third installment, yet they make this volume a less tidy work than its predecessor. Moreover, the account of his writing of Auto-da-Fé is strangely elusive, omitting several important facts that appear in The Conscience of Words.

The Torch in My Ear is filled with minutely observed recollections of incidental figures and scenes…. [The] Flaubertian zeal to get things right tells us something important about Canetti…. [In many passages], especially those concerning his teachers and schoolmates, he exhibits his humanism, his ability to really hear what people say. "With Kafka," Canetti wrote in The Human Province, "something new came into the world, a more precise feeling for its dubiousness, a feeling, however, that is coupled not with hatred, but with respect for life." As with so many of Canetti's tributes, the words rebound to the author. Nowhere is that respect more manifest than in these incidental vignettes. Another of Canetti's tributes, however, seems even more relevant—the one to Stendhal in Crowds and Power. The 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature has secured Canetti an international audience, but in the 1950s, when his novel was little read and his life was consumed by a 20-year project, he must have identified with Stendhal, who "was concerned to write for a few … certain that in a hundred years he would be read by many." He concluded: "But whoever opens Stendhal will find him and also everything which surrounded him; and he finds it here, in this life. Thus the dead offer themselves as food to the living; their immortality profits them." In this regard the diligent, plodding earwitness Canetti has beaten death after all. (p. 11)

Gary Giddins, "A Face in the Crowd," in VLS (copyright © 1982 News Group Publications, Inc.), No. 11, October, 1982, pp. 1, 10-11.


Canetti, Elias (Vol. 14)


Canetti, Elias (Vol. 3)