Elias Canetti is a German author, born in Ruse, Bulgaria in a business family. From an early age, Canetti lived in a multilingual environment; Grandpa knows 17 languages. In 1911, his family moved to England; After the sudden death of his father in 1913, a catastrophe of decisive importance to Canetti's future, his family moved to Vienna (Austria).
Born in 1905 to businessman Jacques Canetti and nephew Mathilde Arditti in Ruse, a town on the Danube river in Bulgaria, Canetti was the eldest of a family of three sons. His ancestors were Sephardi Jews. His paternal ancestors settled in Ruse from Ottoman Adrianople. The original surname was Cañete, named after Cañete, Cuenca, a village in Spain.
In Ruse, Canetti's father and grandfather were successful merchants operating out of a commercial building they built in 1898. Canetti's mother was from the Arditti family, one of the oldest Sephardi families most in Bulgaria, and is one of the founders. Arthritis of the Jewish colony of Ruse in the late 18th century. Arthritis can be traced back to the 14th century, when they were court physicians and astronomers for the Aragon royal court of Alfonso IV and Pedro IV. Before settling in Ruse, they migrated to Italy and lived in Livorno in the 17th century.
During 1916-1924, Elias Canetti went to high school in Zurich and Frankfurt, then entered the Chemistry department of the University of Wien according to his mother's wishes, graduating in 1929. However, Canetti always wished to become a writer. When he had absolutely no interest in chemistry, he decided to pursue a literary career. Canetti started writing in high school, at 16 years old with his first work of poetry Junius Brutus. In the late 1920s, Canetti met with a number of famous writers of the time and intended to write an eight-volume book on human dementia, and in 1935 the first novel was released. named Die Blendung (Blind), in which he harshly condemns the blindness and shockingly helplessness in the actions of the European intellectuals in the face of the danger of fascist usurpation. The work was highly appreciated by Thomas Mann, but a few years later, it was officially banned from circulation by the German government. In the early 1930s he published two plays that signaled the emergence of the absurdist movement.
In 1938, Austria was annexed to Germany, the Jews were persecuted, Elias Canetti went into exile to Paris, after a year of settling in London. Events caused by the expansion of fascism in Europe forced Canetti to stop working on the literature, focusing on scientific research on the issue of the masses and the phenomenon of power. In 1960 came the results of his theoretical studies over twenty years - the work Masse und Macht (Masses and power), in which all genre boundaries were demolished. The work describes the ancient instincts that define human behavior. Canetti systematically rejected generally accepted scientific terminology and tried to find new, simpler and easier to understand terms. This is consistent with the negative attitude of all systems of abstract thinking which, in his opinion, prevent freedom from reaching truth.
In 1919, Canetti received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Vienna, but did not work in chemistry, his love of literature led him to take up a pen and become a writer.
In 1936, Canetti published his novel "Auto-de-Fé", in which he analyzed the relationship between crowd psychology and social upheavals. The work was highly appreciated by critics but was banned from circulation by the fascist authorities in Austria. Other famous works of Canetti include: three plays: The Wedding (1931-1932), Comedy of Vanity (1933 -1934) and The Numbered (1952); Crowds and Power (1962) and many research works, criticisms, essays related to literature, psychology, sociology, philosophy ... Canetti's works are all around the topic: the role and impact of the crowd's psychology and behavior in the development of modern society with profound and unique interpretations and comments. Canetti has received many literary awards, especially the 1981 Nobel Prize for literature.
Here are some quotes from his experience
1. “Relearn astonishment.”
2. “All things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams.”
3. “There are books, that one has for twenty years without reading them, that one always keeps at hand, that one takes along from city to city, from country to country, carefully packed, even when there is very little room, and perhaps one leafs through them while removing them from a trunk; yet one carefully refrains from reading even a complete sentence. Then after twenty years, there comes a moment when suddenly, as though under a high compulsion, one cannot help taking in such a book from beginning to end, at one sitting: it is like a revelation. Now one knows why one made such a fuss about it. It had to be with one for a long time; it had to travel; it had to occupy space; it had to be a burden; and now it has reached the goal of its voyage, now it reveals itself, now it illuminates the twenty bygone years it mutely lived with one. It could not say so much if it had not been there mutely the whole time, and what idiot would dare to assert that the same things had always been in it.”
4. “A head full of stars, just not in constellation yet.”
5. “Travelling, one accepts everything; indignation stays at home. One looks, one listens, one is roused to enthusiasm by the most dreadful things because they are new. Good travellers are heartless.”
6. “Understanding, as we understand it, is misunderstanding.”
7. “I want to keep smashing myself until I am whole.”
8. “...how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?”
9. “I cannot become modest; too many things burn in me; the old solutions are falling apart; nothing has been done yet with the new ones. So I begin, everywhere at once, as if I had a century ahead of me.”
10. “It is always the enemy who started it, even if he was not the first to speak out, he was certainly planning it; and if he was not actually planning it, he was thinking of it; and, if he was not thinking of it, he would have thought of it.”
11. “Every decision is liberating, even if it leads to disaster. Otherwise, why do so many people walk upright and with open arms into their misfortune?”
12. “...no mind ever grew fat on a diet of novels. The pleasure which they occasionally offer is far too heavily paid for: they undermine the finest characters. They teach us to think ourselves into other men's places. Thus we acquire a taste for change. The personality becomes dissolved in pleasing figments of imagination. The reader learns to understand every point of view. Willingly he yields himself to the pursuit of other people's goals and loses sight of his own. Novels are so many wedges which the novelist, an actor with his pen, inserts into the closed personality of the reader. The better he calculates the size of the wedge and the strength of the resistance, so much the more completely does he crack open the personality of the victim. Novels should be prohibited by the State.”
13. “Death is a scandal. The machine is functioning, we are all hostages”
14. “Hay libros que tenemos a nuestro lado veinte años sin leerlos, libros de los que no nos alejamos, que llevamos de una ciudad a otra, de un país a otro, cuidadosamente empaquetados, aunque haya muy poco sitio, y que tal vez hojeamos en el momento de sacarlos de la maleta; sin embargo, nos guardamos muy bien de leer aunque sólo sea una frase completa. Luego, al cabo de veinte años, llega un momento en el que, de repente, como si estuviéramos bajo la presión de un imperativo superior, no podemos hacer otra cosa que coger un libro de estos y leerlo de un tirón, de cabo a rabo: este libro actúa como una revelación. En aquel momento sabemos por qué le hemos hecho tanto caso. Tenía que ocupar sitio; tenía que ser una carga, y ahora ha llegado a la meta de su viaje; ahora levanta su vuelo; ahora ilumina los veinte años transcurridos en los que ha vivido mudo a nuestro lado. No hubiera podido decir tantas cosas si no hubiera estado mudo durante este tiempo, y qué imbécil se atrevería a afirmar que en el libro hubo siempre lo mismo.”
15. “One lives in the naïve notion that later there will be more room than in the entire past.”
16. “Most religions do not make men better, only warier.”
17. “Almost Kien was tempted to believe in happiness, that contemptible life-goal of illiterates. If it came of itself, without being hunted for, if you did not hold it fast by force and treated it with a certain condescension, it was permissible to endure its presence for a few days”
18. “The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation, and it seems most true when it eschews artistic devices of any sort.”
19. “What a man touched upon, he should take with him. If he forgot it, he should be reminded. What gives a man worth is that he incorporates everything he has experienced. This includes the countries where he has lived, the people whose voices he has heard. It also takes in his origins, if he can find out something about them... not only one’s private experience but everything concerning the time and place of one’s beginnings. The words of a language one may have spoken and heard only as a child imply the literature in which it flowered. The story of a banishment must include everything that happened before it as well as the rights subsequently claimed by the victims. Others had fallen before and in different ways; they too are part of the story. It is hard to evaluate the justice of such a claim to history... We should know not only what happened to our fellow men in the past but also what they were capable of. We should know what we ourselves are capable of. For that, much knowledge is needed; from whatever direction, at whatever distance knowledge offers itself, one should reach out for it, keep it fresh, water it and fertilize it with new knowledge.”
20. “The act of naming is the great and solemn consolation of mankind”
21. “It is only in a crowd that man can become free of this fear of being touched. That is the only situation in which the fear changes into its opposite. The crowd he needs is the dense crowd, in which body is pressed to body; a crowd, too, whose psychical constitution is also dense, or compact, so that he no longer notices who it is that presses against him. As soon as a man has surrendered himself to the crowd, he ceases to fear its touch. Ideally, all are equal there; no distinctions count. Not even that of sex. The man pressed against him is the same as himself He feels him as he feels himself. Suddenly it is as though everything were happening in one and the same body." (15)”
22. “The hand which scoops up the water is the first vessel. The fingers of both hands intertwined are the first basket. [p. 217]”
23. “I have no sounds that could serve to soothe me, no violoncello like him, no lament that anyone would recognize as a lament because it sounds subdued, in an inexpressibly tender language. I have only these lines on the yellowish paper and words that are never new, for they keep saying the same thing through an entire life.”
24. “You draw closer to truth by shutting yourself off from mankind.”
25. “You keep taking note of whatever confirms your ideas — better to write down what refutes and weakens them!”
In addition to the above work, Elias Canetti also writes many autographs and memoirs, which have not only been successful with a large audience but also with critics. Six years after receiving the Nobel Prize, he created a memoir, Das Geheimherz der Uhr (The Mysterious Heart of Watches), about the political and cultural life of Central Europe in the early 20th century.
In 1952, he became a British citizen. Elias Canetti has two wives; last years of life in London and Zurich. He died in Zurich in 1994.