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Definition: Canetti, Elias from Philip's Encyclopedia

British writer, b. Bulgaria. His first-hand experience of violent anti-Semitism in the 1930s inspired his masterpiece, Crowds and Power (1960). His fear of the destructive power of mass psychology also informed his only novel, Auto da Fé (1935). In 1981 he received the Nobel Prize in literature.

Summary Article: Canetti, Elias
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Bulgarian-born writer. He was exiled from Austria in 1937 and settled in England in 1939. His books, written in German, include Die Blendung/Auto da Fé (1935). He was concerned with crowd behaviour and the psychology of power, and wrote the anthropological study Masse und Macht/Crowds and Power (1960). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981.

Memoirs His three volumes of memoirs are Die gerettete Zunge: Geschichte einer Jugend/The Tongue Set Free: Remembrance of a Childhood (1977), in which he writes of his earliest years; Die Fackel im Ohr: Lebensgeschichte 1921–31/The Torch in My Ear (1980), set mainly in Vienna and covering the period when Canetti came under the spell of satirist Karl Kraus; and Das Augenspeil/The Play of the Eyes (1985), which covers the years 1931–37, and is rich in satirical insights into the artistic Viennese society of the time.

Life Canetti was born in the Bulgarian town of Ruse on the Danube. Multilingualism was part of his family heritage; his parents, Sephardic Jews, still spoke an ancient form of Spanish, as well as German, a language his mother forced him to learn at the age of eight. In the town itself, he heard people speaking Greek, Albanian, Armenian, Turkish, Spanish, Rumanian, and Russian, and his grandfather spoke Hebrew. As he grew up, he learned English, Latin, Greek, and French, and became expert in the peculiar forms of German spoken in Switzerland and Austria. Between 1913 and 1937, when Canetti departed for Britain, he moved in the societies of Paris, Zürich, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Vienna.

Other worksDramen/Plays (1964) is a collection of Canetti's dramatical work; Aufzeichnungen 1942–1948/Notes 1942–1948 (1965) comprises essays, notes, and talks, and Aufzeichnungen 1949–1960/Notes 1949–1960 (1970) is an important companion to his work on crowd behaviour. Der andere Prozess/Kafka's Other Trial (1969) is an acute reassessment of the Czech writer Franz Kafka, examining Kafka's attitude to power.


Canetti, Elias

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