Elias Canetti Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although he published only one work of fiction, Elias Canetti (kah-NEH-tee) wrote much prose. His magnum opus, the product of decades of work, is Masse und Macht (1960; Crowds and Power, 1962), an extended essay in social psychology that is unorthodox and provocative. In an effort to present a sort of taxonomic typology of the mass mind, Canetti casts a wide net over all of human history. Historical, political, psychological, anthropological, philosophical, sociological, and cultural elements and insights are enlisted in an occasionally idiosyncratic search for the wellsprings of human behavior in general and the root causes of fascism in particular.

A much lighter work is Der Ohrenzeuge: Fünfzig Charaktere (1974; Earwitness: Fifty Characters, 1979), a series of mordant characterizations of eccentric figures that exemplify the quirks and extremes inherent in the human personality. This collection includes thumbnail sketches of such specimens as “Der Papiersäufer” (“The Paper Drunkard”), “Der Demutsahne” (“The Humility-Forebear”), “Die Verblümte” (“The Allusive Woman”), “Der Heroszupfer” (“The Hero-Tugger”), “Der Maestroso” (“The Maestroso”), “Der Nimmermust” (“The Never-Must”), “Der Tränenwärmer” (“The Tearwarmer”), “Die Tischtuchtolle” (“The Tablecloth-Lunatic”), “Der Fehlredner” (“The Misspeaker”), “Der Tückenfänger” (“The...

(The entire section is 535 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The award of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature to Elias Canetti for his multifaceted literary oeuvre caught the world by surprise and focused international attention on a seminal writer and thinker who had lived and worked in relative obscurity for decades. Canetti then became increasingly recognized as a representative of a distinguished Austrian literary tradition. The misleading statement of The New York Times that Canetti was “the first Bulgarian writer” to achieve the distinction of a Nobel Prize was refuted by Canetti himself when he said that “like Karl Kraus and Nestroy, I am a Viennese writer.” Even more suggestive is Canetti’s statement that “the language of my mind will remain German—because I am a Jew.”


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Arnason, Johann P. and David Roberts. Elias Canetti’s Counter-image of Society: Crowds, Power, Transformation. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2004. Presents an advanced exploration of how Canetti’s Crowds and Power relates to the rest of his literary work.

Berman, Russell A., ed. The Rise of the Modern German Novel: Crisis and Charisma. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986. Situates Canetti’s novel within the context of fiction contemporary with his time.

Darby, David, ed. Critical Essays on Elias Canetti. New York: G. K. Hall, 2000. Collection of scholarly essays discusses varied aspects of Canetti’s work.

Daviau, Donald. Major Figures of Contemporary Austrian Literature. New York: Peter Lang, 1987. Offers a very thorough study of Canetti’s career by a seasoned scholar.

Daviau, Donald, ed. Modern Austrian Literature 16 (1983). This special Elias Canetti issue features several essays on Auto-da-Fé, some in English, some in German.

Donahue, William Collins. The End of Modernism: Elias Canetti’s “Auto-da-Fé.” Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Presents a comprehensive study of the novel’s cultural and philosophical contexts.

Donahue, William...

(The entire section is 454 words.)