CANETTI, ELIAS

CANETTI, ELIAS (1905–1994), novelist, playwright and essayist. Canetti was born in Bulgaria in multicultural Rustschuk on the Romanian border. Growing up in a Sephardi family Canetti was socialized in several languages: Spaniolish (the language of the Sephardi Jews), Bulgarian (the official language of the country), and German, which at first was the "secret language" of his parents; only from 1913 did Canetti learn this language from his mother in Lausanne, and from then on it was the medium of his writing. In the autobiography of his childhood Die gerettete Zunge (1977; The Memoirs of Elias Canetti, 1999, including the subsequent two volumes) Canetti emphasized this linguistic plurality, which he understood as a Jewish gift and at same time regarded as crucial for the linguistic consciousness of his writing. Cultural plurality becomes an even stronger basis of his writing after Rustschuk. In 1911 the family moved to Manchester, and after the early death of his father to Lausanne (1913), Vienna (1913), Zurich (1916), Frankfurt (1921) and again back to Vienna (1924),   where Canetti studied chemistry. There he was influenced by Karl Kraus, met Veza Taubner-Calderon, herself a writer and his future wife, and there he found (seeing also the burning palace of justice in Vienna in 1927) a central theme in his writing: the phenomenon of masses and power (cf. the second part of the autobiography, Die Fackel im Ohr, 1980). Living mainly in Vienna until 1938, Canetti became acquainted with several writers and artists, such as George Grosz, Bert Brecht, and isaac babel in Berlin, where he worked as translator for the Malik publishing house in 1929, and with hermann broch , Robert musil , Abraham Sonne, and Fritz Wotruba in Vienna. At this time he began to write. He wrote two plays (Hochzeit, written in 1931, published in 1932, and Komödie der Eitelkeit, written in 1933/34, published in 1950), in which he followed Kraus' technique of the "acoustic quotation." In 1930/31, he wrote the novel Die Blendung, which was published in Vienna in 1935. Ignored in German-speaking Europe it was translated early into English (Auto da Fe, 1946) and seen as an uncanny and at the same time comic description of the fall (and self-destruction) of the old-European intellectual and cultural mind and the rise of mass ideologies in prewar Europe. Only after the war – after new editions in 1948 and 1963 in Germany – was this novel recognized as one of the most important works of the 20th century and earned Canetti the Nobel Prize for literature in 1981. The writing and publication of this novel is the subject of the third part of Canetti's autobiography, Das Augenspiel (1985). Of similar importance but less appreciated and read was his anthropological-political essay Masse und Macht (Crowds and Power, 1960). After his immigration from Paris to London in 1938 Canetti stopped writing and devoted himself to the anthropological, ethnological, mythological, and psychiatric studies which form the background of his essay on crowds and power. The work is a general investigation of the phenomenon of power, dealing with ethnographical examples such as the hunting practices of primitive peoples. He explains the rituals and the psychology of power (e.g., power-increase by triumph over the killed victim) and analyzes the rhetoric and symbolism of the masses (e.g., the fire). In the shadow of the Nazi terror, though less explicitly, the book also deals with the mythical and anthropological roots of mass murder. Here, but also in his play Die Befristeten (written in 1952, published in 1964), Canetti conceives of death as the core of evil, contradicting life. Against death he posits the social "facility of transformation," which is the duty especially of the poet, as Canetti explains in his speech Die Verantwortung des Dichters (1976). The possibility of transformation leads also to his ethnographic novel Die Stimmen von Marrakesch (1968), which is based on a journey to Marrakesh in 1954, and his notebooks written since 1942, in which – as in the autobiography – Canetti also reflects on topical issues relating to Judaism, such as Zionism, assimilation, Jewish self-hatred (Kraus, Weininger), the possibility of Jewish cultural life in Germany after the Holocaust (cf. Die Provinz des Menschen, 1973; Das Geheimherz der Uhr, 1987). Canetti died in Zurich, his favorite city, in August 1994. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: St. H. Kaszyński, Elias Canettis Anthropologie und Poetik (1985); N. Riedner, Canettis Fischerle (1994); C. Geoffroy, G. Stieg Elias Canetti (1995); M. Bollacher, "Canetti und das Judentum," in G. Stieg, Ein Dichter braucht Ahnen (1997), 37–47; F. Kenk, Elias Canetti (2003); J.P. Anderson and D. Roberts: Elias Canetti's Counter-Image of Society (2004). D. Lorenz, A Companion to the Works of Elias Canetti (2004). (Andreas Kilcher (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Canetti, Elias — born July 25, 1905, Ruse, Bulg. died Aug. 14, 1994, Zürich, Switz. Bulgarian born British novelist and playwright. Canetti was from a Spanish speaking Jewish family. His best known work, the novel Auto da Fé (1935), deals with the dangers in… …   Universalium

  • Canetti, Elías — ► (1905 94) Escritor búlgaro de origen sefardita en lengua alemana. Fue premio Nobel de Literatura en 1981. Huyó de Viena en 1938 por la persecución nazi. De joven escribió su obra maestra, Auto de fe (1936). Su producción trata de la defensa de… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Canetti, Elias — (1905–94)    Austrian writer. Canetti was born in Ruse, Bulgaria and grew up fluent in four languages Ladino, Bulgarian, English and German. His literary output however is in German. He studied chemistry at the University of Vienna, but after… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Canetti,Elias — Ca·net·ti (kä nĕtʹē), Elias. 1905 1994. Bulgarian born writer whose works, all written in German, include a novel, The Tower of Babel (1935), and Crowds and Power (1960), a study of mass psychology. He won the 1981 Nobel Prize for literature. * * …   Universalium

  • Canetti, Elias — (1905 94)    Austrian novelist, essayist and dramatist. He was born in Ruse in Bulgaria. He was a freelance writer and translator and in 1938 he went to London, where he settled. His works include Auto da Fe, Crowds and Power, The Tongue Set Free …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Canetti, Elias —  (1905–1994) Bulgarian born British writer; awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981 …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Canetti — Canetti, Elías …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Elias Canetti — im Oktober 1970 auf der Tagung Forum für Entwicklungspolitik in der Bonner Beethovenhalle; als Zuhörer links vom Pult …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Elias Canetti — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Elias Canetti Tumba de Elias Canetti en Zúrich. Nombre Elias Jacques Canetti …   Wikipedia Español

  • Elías — Elias (Latinisierung von Ηλιας) ist als männlicher Vorname und, davon abgeleitet, als Familienname gebräuchlich. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Varianten 3 Namenstag 4 Bekannte Namensträger 4.1 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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