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.)