1981 : Elias Canetti

1981 : Elias Canetti

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“for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power”



July 25, 1905

Place of birth


Rousse, Bulgaria



August 14, 1994

Place of death


Zurich, Switzerland






Great Britain

Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 1981


Son of a Jewish merchant family of Sephardic origin (its name comes from Canete, a town of Cuenca, Spain where he is Foster Child), lived in the present Bulgaria in 1911 until he moved to Britain, more precisely to the City of Manchester , Where he made contact with the best works of world literature. From childhood dominated the Bulgarian, German and Sephardic (in his autobiography, associated with strong memories of childhood). His father died the following year the family emigrated to Vienna where he lived the First World War and was proud with their small friends to be “British rather than the Austrian.” Once installed in Austria, used mainly German. After passing through Zurich and Germany, he returned again to Vienna in 1924 as a student of Chemical Sciences, a graduate in 1929, although his great passion was literature, devoted to the study of this discipline in Switzerland. During his stay in Vienna, he married the writer also Taubner vetch, and writes his early works: The Wedding, The Comedy of Vanidades Faith and Order. In 1938, after the night of broken glass in Austria, is Canetti moved to London, obtaining British citizenship in 1952. It is in Britain where he lived poorly working on one of his great works, mass and power, influenced significantly by Nazi Germany that had been able to see up close. Uncomfortable with the mentality and customs English, was highly critical of the country’s intelligentsia, as described in his book Fiesta under bombs, and was a lover of British novelist Iris Murdoch, who made this book a pitiless portrait. From the 70 lived in Zurich until her death, which occurred on August 14, 1994. In 1971, after the death of his first wife, marries the art restorer Buschor Hera, who has a daughter. In 1972 he received the Georg Buchner Prize, the most important literary distinction in German, and in 1981 the Nobel Prize for Literature. Among the grounds for the surrender of the Nobel, a reference to the study of mass movements and especially with the brutality of German National Socialism and dictatorships in general. The entire staff of his work may not be known until 2024 by its own wills.


Selected Works:

  • Die Blendung : Roman – Wien: Reichner, 1936

  • Komodie der Eitelkeit : Drama – Munchen: Weismann, 1950

  • Fritz Wotruba – Wien: Rosenbaum, 1955

  • Masse und Macht – Hamburg: Claassen, 1960

  • Welt im Kopf – Wien: Stiasny, 1962

  • Hochzeit : Drama – Munchen: Hanser, 1964

  • Die Befristeten : Drama – Munchen: Hanser, 1964

  • Dramen – Munchen: Hanser, 1964

  • Aufzeichnungen 1942-1948 – Munchen: Hanser, 1965

  • Die Stimmen von Marrakesch : Aufzeichnungen nach einer Reise – Munchen: Hanser, 1967

  • Der andere Proze? : Kafkas Briefe an Felice – Munchen: Hanser, 1969

  • Alle vergeudete Verehrung : Aufzeichnungen 1949-1960. Munchen : Hanser, 1970

  • Die gespaltene Zukunft : Aufsatze und Gesprache – Munchen: Hanser, 1972

  • Macht und Uberleben : Drei Essays – Berlin: Literarisches Colloquium, 1972

  • Die Provinz des Menschen : Aufzeichnungen 1942-1972 – Munchen: Hanser, 1974

  • Das Gewissen der Worte – Munchen: Hanser, 1975

  • Der Uberlebende – Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1975

  • Der Beruf des Dichters – Munchen: Hanser, 1976

  • Die gerettete Zunge : Geschichte einer Jugend – Munchen: Hanser, 1977

  • Die Fackel im Ohr : Lebensgeschichte 1921-1931 – Munchen: Hanser, 1980

  • Das Augenspiel : Lebensgeschichte 1931-1937 – Munchen: Hanser, 1985

  • Das Geheimherz der Uhr : Aufzeichnungen 1973-1985 – Munchen: Hanser, 1987

  • Die Fliegenpein : Aufzeichnungen – Munchen: Hanser, 1992

  • Aufzeichnungen 1942-1985 – Munchen: Hanser, 1993

  • Nachtrage aus Hampstead : Aus den Aufzeichnungen 1954-1971 – Munchen: Hanser, 1994

  • Aufzeichnungen 1992-1993 – Munchen: Hanser, 1996

  • Aufzeichnungen 1973-1984 – Munchen: Hanser, 1999

  • Uber Tiere / mit einem Nachwort von Brigitte Kronauer – Munchen: Hanser, 2002

  • Party im Blitz : die englischen Jahre / aus dem Nachlass herausgegeben von Kristian Wachinger – Munchen: Hanser, 2003

  • Uber den Tod / mit einem Nachwort von Thomas Macho – Munchen: Hanser, 2003

  • Uber die Dichter / mit einem Nachwort von Peter von Matt – Munchen: Hanser, 2004

  • Aufzeichnungen fur Marie-Louise / aus dem Nachla? hrsg. und mit einem Nachw. von Jeremy Adler – Munchen : Hanser, 2005

  • Briefe an Georges / Veza und Elias Canetti – Munchen: Hanser, 2006

Translations into English:

  • Auto Da Fe? / translated from the German under the personal supervision of the author by C.V. Wedgwood – London: Cape, 1946 – Published as The Tower of Babel. – New York: Knopf, 1947

  • Crowds and Power / translated from the German by Carol Stewart – New York, Viking Press, 1962

  • Kafka’s Other Trial : The Letters to Felice / translated by Christopher Middleton – New York: Schocken, 1974

  • The Human Province / translated by Joachim Neugroschel – New York: Seabury Press, 1978

  • The Voices of Marrakesh : a Record of a Visit / translated from the German by J.A. Underwood – New York : Farrar Straus Giroux.. cop. 1978

  • The Conscience of Words / translated by Joachim Neugroschel – New York: Seabury Press, 1979

  • Earwitness : Fifty Characters / translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel – New York : Seabury Press, 1979

  • The Tongue Set Free : Remembrance of a European Childhood / translated by Joachim Neugroschel – New York: Continuum, 1979

  • The Torch in My Ear / translated by Joachim Neugroschel – New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1982

  • Comedy of Vanity / translated by Gitta Honegger – New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1983

  • Life-Terms / translated by Gitta Honegger – New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1983

  • The Numbered / translated by Carol Stewart – London: Calder & Boyars, 1984

  • The Play of the Eyes / translated by Ralph Manheim – New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986

  • The Wedding / translated by Gitta Honegger – New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1986

  • The Secret Heart of the Clock : Notes, Aphorisms, Fragments 1973-1985 / translated by Joe Agee – New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989

  • The Agony of Flies : Notes and Notations / translated by H. F. Broch de Rothermann – New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994

  • Notes from Hampstead : The Writer’s Notes 1954-1971 / translated by John Hargraves – New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998

  • The Memoirs of Elias Canetti – New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999 – Includes The Tongue Set Free, The Torch in My Ear and The Play of the Eyes

  • Party in the Blitz : the English Years / translated from the German by Michael Hofmann – New York: New Directions, 2005

Literature (a selection):

  • Bischoff, Alfons-M., Elias Canetti : Stationen zum Werk – Bern: Lang, 1973

  • Essays in honor of Elias Canetti / translated from the German by Michael Hulse – New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987

  • Lawson, Richard H., Understanding Elias Canetti – Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1991

  • Ist Wahrheit ein Meer von Grashalmen? : Zum Werk Elias Canettis / hrsg. von Joseph P. Strelka und Zsuzsa Szell. Bern: Lang, 1993

  • Barth, Martina, Canetti versus Canetti : Identitat, Macht und Masse im literarischen Werk Elias Canettis – Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1994

  • Steussloff, Axel Gunther, Autorschaft und Werk Elias Canettis : Subjekt – Sprache – Identitat – Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann, 1994

  • Einladung zur Verwandlung : Essays zu Elias Canettis “Masse und Macht” / hrsg.von Michael Kruger – Munchen: Hanser, 1995

  • Canetti als Leser / Gerhard Neumann (Hg.). Freiburg als Breisgau: Rombach, 1996

  • Scott, David, Metaphor as thought in Elias Canetti’s Masse und Macht – Bern: Lang, 1999

  • Critical essays on Elias Canetti / edited by David Darby. New York: G.K. Hall, 2000

  • Donahue, William Collins, The end of Modernism : Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-fe – Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001

  • Canetti in Zurich : Erinnerungen und Gesprache / herausgegeben von Werner Morlang. Munchen: Nagel und Kimche, 2005

  • Elias Canetti : Bilder aus seinem Leben / hrsg. von Kristian Wachinger – Munchen: Hanser, 2005

  • Hanuschek, Sven, Elias Canetti : Biographie – Munchen: Hanser, 2005


1981: Nobel Prize in Literature.


The Appearance of the Sorcerer

How much I had changed myself, I saw the visits of the grandfather. He first came to Zurich when he knew me alone. The tension between him and the mother was probably grown, some years it went out of the way, but she wrote regularly. During the war he got postcards, on which it with our new addresses have been notified, and later changed it formal and impersonal letters. He hardly knew me in the Yalta, “he appeared in Zurich. He rose in hotels Central and ordered me to be. His hotel room, whether in Vienna or Zurich, faced similar, there was in them the same odor. He was in his belt verschnurt evening prayers when I came while he kissed me and bathed in tears, he prayed more. He pointed to a drawer that I should take his open, there was a thick envelope with stamps, which he had collected for me. I emptied it at the lower drawers, and they mustered, some I had already, some I had not, he followed with Argus eyes to the game face on my face to him in rapidly diversion joy or disappointment betrayed. Since I him in his prayer is not wanted to interrupt, I said nothing, which he held but not from himself and broke the solemn tone of his Hebrew words with a questioning “Nu?” I had some inarticulate, enthusiastic sounds to me that satisfied him and He prayed more. It took quite a long time, everything was fixed, he did nothing and nothing shorter, as it already at maximum speed before, was also settled nothing accelerate. Then he was ready, he considered me if I knew the countries from which the stamps came, and overwhelmed me with praise for the correct information. It was as if I was in Vienna and only ten years old would, it was so annoying to me as his tears of joy that flowed again. He wept as he spoke to me, he was overwhelmed them, I am alive to find his name grandchildren, still a little bigger, and perhaps also from the fact that he himself was still there, to experience it. Once he checked me to the end and had ausgeweint, he led me into an alcohol-free restaurant, where Hall daughters underserved. For such, he had a keen eye, and it was impossible for him to take orders without a tedious conversation. It began so that he showed to me and said: “My Enkeli!” Then he counted all the languages on which he could, it still had its 17th The hall daughter, who had to be done, listened to the list in the Swiss German is not figured, impatient to prisons once they made to disappear, he appealed to appease her hand on the hips and let it lie there. I am ashamed for him, but the girl kept silent, as I head that I had lowered again stressed that he was with his languages to an end, his hand was still in place. He took them away when it went to the Order, which he had with the daughter advised, he will need both hands, after a lengthy procedure but then he ordered the same as always, for a yogurt, a cup of coffee for me. While the daughter was gone, I talked to him: this is not Vienna, in Switzerland it was different, you can not behave so that it could happen to him that he is a Hall daughter get a slap in the face. He answered nothing, he thought it better to know. As the daughter with yogurt and coffee came back, she smiled kindly on him, he thanked emphatically, put her hand again at the hip and promised the next time you visit in Zurich again. I hurried myself with the drink, only to quickly from here fortzukommen against each visually convinced that he had insulted them. I was careless enough to him by the Yalta to tell, he insisted me to visit and announced to. Miss Mina was not at home, Miss Rosy received him. They led him through the house and garden, he was interested in everything and put countless questions. For each fruit and then he asked how much he contributes. He asked for the girls who lived there, by name, origin and age. He counted them together, then there were nine, and said that more would accommodate in-house. Miss Rosy said that almost every room had its own, because he wanted the room to see. They, of his merriness and dazzled his questions led him clueless in each room. The girls were in town or in the hall, Miss Rosy was nothing to him the empty bedroom to show that I never had seen. He admired the view and considered the beds. He estimated each room according to its size and said that as easy a second bed inside were. He had the home countries of the girls noticed and wanted to know where the Frenchwoman, where the Dutch, where the Brazilian, and especially where the two Swedes were asleep. Finally he asked after the sparrow’s nest, the studio of Miss Mina. I had previously warned him he needed to see the images exactly, he and some praise. That he did now on its way: like a connoisseur he remained only at some distance from stand, then came up very close and besah exactly the brushwork. He shook his head about as much skill and then broke into enthusiastic superlatives, where he had the cunning, Spanish instead of Italian words to use, the Miss Rosy understood. Some flowers he knew from his home garden, tulips, carnations and roses, and asked the painter his congratulations for their skills out: something he had never seen, as agreed, and whether they are fruit trees and fruits paint? He regretted that not to be seen, and advised instandig to an expansion of the repertoire. Thus, he stunned both of us, neither me nor Miss Rosy was the thought ever come. When he began, according to the value of the pictures to ask, I saw him strictly, but in vain. He was not swayed, Miss Rosy picked up a list of the last issue and briefed him about the prices. There were some who to several hundred francs had been sold, were smaller been cheaper, he was all prices in turn say they counted on the spot in your head together and surprised us with a respectable result, which we both did not had known. Then he added even more great add that it did not arrive, it came to beauty, “la hermosura” of images and, as Miss Rosy shook her head because she did not understand the word, he dropped me before I translated it had quickly into the floor and said in Italian: “la beauty, beauty la, la beauty!” Then he wanted to see the garden again, this time more thoroughly. On the tennis court after he asked how big the reason was that the house belonged. Miss Rosy was embarrassed because she knew it not: he has measured the tennis court with steps, the length and breadth, he already had the number of square calculated, so that burst out and pondered a bit. He compared the size of the tennis court with the garden, even with the lawn next door, made a pfiffiges face and said: so and so great was the whole thing. Miss Rosy was overwhelmed, the visit that I feared it was a triumph. In the early evening he took me to a theater performance in the woods above the Dolder with. When I came home, I expected the ladies in her room. Miss Mina could not forgive that they ausgewesen was an hour I heard the praise of the grandfather’s singing. Even the size of the reason he had correctly calculated, a true Warlock.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Dr. Johannes Edfelt, of the Swedish Academy.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The exiled and cosmopolitan author Canetti has one native land, and that is the German language. He has never abandoned it, and he has often avowed his love of the highest manifestations of the classical German culture.

In a speech in Vienna in 1936 Canetti praised Hermann Broth as one of the few contemporary representative writers. What irremissible demands, according to Canetti, must be made upon the truly representative man? He must be subject to his time as its “lowest slave” and yet be in opposition to it; in a wish for universality he must summarize his age, and he must possess the most distinct “conception of atmospheric impressions”. Such criteria also mark Canetti’s own writings. Pursued in different directions and comprising several genres, they are held together by a most original and vigorously profiled personality.

His foremost purely fictional achievement is the great novel Die Blendung (“Auto da Fe”), published in 1935 but attaining its full effect only during the last decades: against the background of National Socialism’s brutal power politics, the novel acquires a deepened perspective.

Die Blendung was part of an originally planned series of novels which was to take the shape of a “comedie humaine of madmen”. The book has such fantastic and demoniacal elements that associations with Russian 19th-Century writers like Gogol and Dostoevsky are apparent. It is an aspect of key importance when Die Blendung is regarded by several critics as a single fundamental metaphor for the threat exercised by the “mass man” within ourselves. Close at hand is the viewpoint from which the novel stands out as a study of a type of man who isolates himself in self-sufficient specialization, only to succumb helplessly in a world of ruthlessly harsh realities.

Die Blendung leads over to the big examination of the origin, composition and reaction patterns of the mass movements which Canetti, after decades of research and study, published with Masse und Macht (“Crowds and Power”) in 1960. It is a magisterial work by a polyhistor who can disclose an overwhelmingly large number of viewpoints of men’s behaviour as mass beings. In his basically a historical analysis what he wants to expose and attack by scrutinizing the origin and nature of the masses is, in the end, the religion of power. Survival becomes the nucleus of power. At last the mortal enemy is death itself: this is a principal theme, held to with a strangely pathetic strength, in Canetti’s literary works.

Apart from the intensive work on Masse und Macht Canetti has written aphoristic notes, issued in several volumes. Abundant humour and a satirical bite in the observation of people’s behaviour, a loathing of wars and devastation, bitterness at the thought of life’s brevity are characteristic features here.

Canetti’s three plays are all of a more or less absurd kind. In their portrayal of extreme situations, often depicting human vulgarity, these “acoustic masks”, as he himself calls them, give an interesting glimpse into his unique world of ideas.

Among his many sharp-sighted portrait studies special mention can be made of Der andere Prozess (“Kafka’s Other Trial”), in which with intense involvement he examines Kafka’s complicated relationship to Felice Bauer. The study resolves into a picture of a man whose life and work meant the relinquishing of power.

Finally, standing out as a peak in Canetti’s writings, are his memoirs, so far in two large volumes. In these recollections of his childhood and youth he reveals his forceful epic power of description to its full extent. A great deal of the political and cultural life in central Europe in the early 1900’s – especially the form it took in Vienna – is reflected in the memoirs. The peculiar environments, the many remarkable human destinies with which Canetti has been confronted and his unique educational path – always aiming at universal knowledge – are seen here in a style and with a lucidity that have very few qualitative equivalents in the memoirs written in the German language during this century.

Dear Mr Canetti, with your versatile writings, which attack sick tendencies in our age, you wish to serve the cause of humanity. Intellectual passion is combined in you with the moral responsibility that – in your own words – “is nourished by mercy”. I beg to convey to you the warm congratulations of the Swedish Academy, and ask you now to accept this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature from the hands of His Majesty the King.


Masse und Macht

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