Elias Canetti

Elias Canetti

THE LAUREATE: Read about him here and here

WHAT I’M READING: Canetti’s only novel, Die Blendung, or in English Auto-Da-Fe. REVIEW: “In a twinkling she fitted her own ideas to his sentences.” This comes very late in Auto-da-Fe, but it fairly well summarizes what drives the story. Peter Kein, by his own admission the premier Sinologist of his day, is in love with books. He idolizes them, he fetishizes them. They are more valuable, in the abstract and in the concrete, than people. His housekeeper, Therese, dusts his books for eight years, then starts to read one. Kein mistakes the care she shows for a book she is getting paid to clean for loving books as much as he does, and decides to marry her. She begins a ruthless (but totally, in her mind, justifiable) campaign to gain control of everything he owns. Whenever the two of them speak, it’s like they’re in two different conversations. I dunno, that style continues when she finally locks him out and he falls in with a bad crowd, trying to keep books from being pawned, then when his brother comes to restore order to his world. It’s an easy read, but it’s too much like The Office: too much awful people doing awful things to each other. Some of the insights the brother, a psychologist, provides at the end are interesting, as is the way he uses Kein’s obsession with literature and history to cut through the lies he told himself and figure out how things got to where they are.

RECOMMENDED: Well, Canetti is definitely better known as a nonfiction writer. I would read his book about crowd psychology any day, but this is kinda eh.

WHAT’S NEXT: I have no goddamn idea. Maybe Harold Pinter, maybe Gunter Grass, maybe Bertrand Russell.


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