Elias Canetti

Elias Canetti (* 25. July 1905 in Russian/Bulgaria; † 14. August 1994 in Zurich) was a writer of German language and literature Nobelpreisträger 1981.

Canetti, the oldest son of a wealthy spaniolisch Jewish buyer family, spent its child years in Bulgaria and England. After the early death of its father in the year 1912 it led a little established life in different German-language countries with nut/mother and brothers and sisters: in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

From 1924 on it lived 1938 with his Mrs. Veza in Vienna, until the connection of Austria to National Socialist Germany forced it , to England to emigrieren, where it remained also after the war and acquired the English nationality. In the seventies it lived increasingly, in the eighties soon exclusive in Switzerland. Canetti died 1994 in Zurich and at the cemetery Fluntern was buried there.

Das Grabmal in Zürich
The tomb in Zurich

as writers is to be arranged Canetti not easily in categories or literary currents. Its work is extraordinarily versatile, already which concerns the used literary kinds. It has among other things a novel published (the glare), three dramas, a anthropologische study (mass and power), aphoristische recordings and one more-restrains Autobiografie. Since it published very zögerlich, it became known only gradually to a larger public, particularly in the German linguistic area. Here it received numerous prices and honors (so for instance 1969 the literary award of the Bavarian academy of the beautiful arts and 1972 the George book he price) for the sixties, finally received it to 1981 the Nobelpreis for literature.

With all difference of the literary kinds, which he uses, Canettis work is thematically quite homogeneous. It was fulfilled by „death enmity “and sought all effects, which the consciousness of death for the life of humans has, to investigate - therefore its interest in the different religions and faith forms. Its interest in mass phenomena and manifestations of power rose from the coining/shaping events 20. Century: the world wars and the national socialism. With all skepticism Canetti is not however from pessimistic basic attitude, on the contrary he sees it as the occupation of the poet (so the title of an essay of 1976), to create area for „hope “and ways from „the chaos “.

Table of contents


childhood and youth

Elias Canetti became to 25. July 1905 in Rustschuk (today: Russian) in Bulgaria born. Its parents Jacques and Mathilde Canetti came of to two wealthy spaniolisch Jewish buyer families, which had come over Turkey to Bulgaria. When the possibility resulted 1911 to take part with one in England transacted themselves used in business the family used the opportunity to pull after Manchester. Altogether only 6 years, which Canetti in Bulgaria spent, it described those later in the first volume of its life history impressive. In addition, in England it remained first not for a long time, because in October 1912 completely surprisingly the still completely young and apparently core-healthy father, possibly at a cardiac infarct - an experience, died which should have surely substantial influence on Canettis later „mortal enemy shank “. The nut/mother decided thereupon to pull with Elias and his two younger brothers to Vienna. Elias, whose native language was the old-Spanish Ladino and which had learned English and something French in England, received only now in a kind of educational Rosskur German instruction from the nut/mother. Partly because of the broken out First World War, partly because of a continuous illness of the nut/mother the family changed the domicile in the following years still several times, and Canetti lived in each case some years in Zurich (1916 - 1921) and in Frankfurt/Main (1921 - 1924), where it put down to the Wöhlerschule the Abitur.

In the years after the death of the loved father developed Canetti a very close and jealous relationship with the nut/mother, a very proud and independent woman with passionate interest in theatres and literature. With the read evenings, at which nut/mother and son read together classical dramas, it gave to become, long time food to the desire Canettis, later even poet. Later she saw this development increasing with concern and looked for the son to a practical occupation to urge - the removal from idyllischen Switzerland in inflationsgebeutelte Germany was their attempt to place Canetti on the soil of the facts. This strategy was only conditioned successfully: Canetti became alienated into the 1920er year increasingly from the nut/mother and broke finally completely with it.

there Vienna (1924-1938

) during Canettis nut/mother and brothers in France established themselves, pulled it 1924 again to Vienna and studied chemistry, without genuine interest in the subject (graduation 1929). Beside it followed to its actual interests, which concerned literary things and a broad spectrum at philosophical topics. Directly 1924 became acquainted with Canetti its later friend (and starting from 1934 wife) Veza , which divided later its passion for literature (and its own literary activity began) and Canetti in its high-flying literary plans encouraged. This of limited itself for the time its study however on declarations of intent and finger exercises.

Canetti visited the lectures of the Satirikers Karl Kraus , whom he (like many of his contemporaries) in this time admired almost fanatisch. In addition it collected material for its project of a study over the phenomenon of the mass, which did not seem sufficiently to be it by scientists such as Le Bon or victory mouth Freud seized. Personal experiences such as demonstrations in Frankfurt (with the murder Rathenaus 1922) and Vienna (July revolt to 15. July 1927) encouraged it in this intention.

Canetti expanded gradually its circle of acquaintances, whereby he avoided however politically like literarily conservative circles rather. It had contact to representatives political linking (Ernst Fischer to want to engage itself Ruth von Mayenburg), with which it sympathized, without however politically. 1928 he spent the summer in Berlin, where he worked for the mark IC publishing house. This stay became very important it, because it did not only bring it in contact with the there artist scene (John Heartfield, how/as country heart field, George Grosz, Bertolt break, in addition Isaak Babel and Ludwig Hardt), but because it became lively by Berlin appearing in the comparison to cosy Vienna like „a lunatic asylum “also its novel the glare, which it wrote to 1930/ 31. One year after developed the drama wedding, a further year later the comedy of the vanity. All three works remained first unpublished, but by readings from the novel and the dramas Canetti became acquainted with numerous artists and intellectual ones, among them the sculptor Fritz Wotruba, which became one of its closest friends, the artist Anna meals (with the Canetti unfortunately fell in love), Abraham sun (late Avraham Ben Yitzhak), the writer Hermann Broch, furthermore Alban mountain, Hermann Scherchen and Robert Musil. Its increasing admittingness made possible it for Canetti finally even to publish the glare but its further literary career (like also those its wife) could not advance in the increasingly Jew-hostile climate of the thirties, and after the connection of Austria to National Socialist Germany 1938 had stateless person the married couple about a departure possibility to worry.

London (1939-1971)

the Canettis it emigrierten to the turn of the year 1938/39 over France to England, where they established themselves under frequently changing addresses in or with London, usually for many years in separate dwellings. They had already not led a particularly civil-conventional marriage in Vienna - their relationship was at the same time close and reserved to each other, a mixture out of marriage community and friendship. Veza provided by order work not only for a large part of the altogether very meager income, but understood themselves besides as Förderin of the work of their man, whom she stopped to the work. Canetti - expressed jealous - still maintained with other women simultaneous and relations of many years, and Veza Canetti knew to Nebenfrauen about these „“quite: the authoress Frieda Benedikt (alias Anna Sebastian), which Canetti still of Vienna knew, and which painter Marie Louise of Motesiczky. Also from the acquaintance with the authoress and Professorin iris Murdoch developed an affair of several years.

After the removal to England concentrated Canetti on the searches to its is enough itself for planned book concerning the mass completely and published twenty years long practically no new works. Only the glare appeared 1946 in a much considered English translation, which led in interaction with its schillernden personality and its general curiosity on humans to the fact that he became in the Londoner intellectual and artist circles an admittingness. Canetti operated Bertrand Russell, Dylan Thomas and Arthur Waley with other emigrant such as Franz bear man Steiner, Hans Günther eagle and Erich Fried like also with British scholars and artists , among other things. It lived itself thus comparatively rapidly in England in, which is to be attributed surely also to the fact that he (like also his Mrs. Veza) spoke well English. Canetti remained, differently than many emigrants, also after end of war in England, 1952 acquired it the British nationality.

Up to its every now and then tension-rich personal relations Canetti spent an outwardly calm life. It undertook occasionally journeys in Great Britain and in other Europe (Provence, Italy, Greece), only a dreiwöchige journey after Marrakesch (over which it published volume with travel recordings later) led it 1954 abroad non-European. More importantly than such journeys the meetings with strange cultures always were over books, are it in the form of myth and fairy tale collections or from travel descriptions for it. Canettis extensive readings were not limited however by any means only to these areas.

The manuscript from mass and power had far progressed into the 1950er years already, but Canetti still hesitated with the publication. It was concerned again with some literary projects, by which however only the 1956 with moderate success specified drama the limited ones were locked. When 1960 mass and power appeared finite in a German publishing house, Canetti was disappointed by the rather small resonance, which caused the book. The literary public became Canetti only completely gradually admits, also after the resident of Munich Hans he publishing house did not only take the early Viennese of works starting from 1963 in the program, but also recent work. But the regular new publications led to the fact that Canetti in the 1960er and 1970er became present years in the public: by readings and interviews, by performances of its pieces and by the honor with literary awards (under others: 1966 German critic price, 1968 large Austrian state State of, 1969 large literary award of the Bavarian academy of the beautiful arts, 1972 George book he price).

The joy over slowly increasing success Canetti however substantially clouded by the death of his Mrs. Veza in May 1963 - a further experience of death in the next admitting and family circle, after 1912 the father, 1937 the nut/mother and 1953 Friedl Benedikt had already died. Eight years later, 1971, also Canettis loved brother George at a lung illness of many years died.

Zurich (1972-1994)

into the 1960er years developed from the acquaintance Canettis with the Kunstrestauratorin Hera bus choir a dear relationship working in Zurich. Canetti was therefore quite frequently in Zurich, and after the two 1971 married and was born one year of late Canettis only child Johanna, Canetti moved to its family to Zurich, the city, which he had particularly closed since its Swiss youth years in the heart. It kept however both the dwelling in London as well as its British nationality, withdrew themselves however only occasionally for working there.

This work consisted, beside the naturally further led recordings, predominantly of its life history. Already for many years Canetti felt more and more for the kind of the Autobiografie drawn, and after overcoming of some doubts concerning the relevance of such an enterprise he began the saved tongue with the work on the first volume over his childhood and youth. Other projects like the continuation of the study of the mass or its book against death stepped thereby into the background - Canetti, that very frequently dissatisfied showed up with its literary production, did not think probably more to be able to still realize them.

In Switzerland Canetti lived many more withdrawn than before. That was to a good part because of the extraordinarily lucky family life, which he led and which from the tensions of its earlier dear relations was free. In addition, the public success of its 1977 appearing Autobiografie, so pleasing it natural for Canetti was, suggested to it such a retreat. When it was distinguished 1981 for its literary work with the Nobelpreis for literature, it decided to give also no more interviews and to hold no more readings. Canettis family idyll was however sensitively disturbed, when his much younger Mrs. Hera at cancer got sick, to which she finally succumbed 1988.

Elias Canetti died 1994 at the age of 89 years in Zurich. Its deduction is on its desire in the Zentralbibliothek Zurich. The largest part of this deduction (drafts, recordings, those about 20,000 volumes comprehensive library) is to the research at the disposal, but Canetti has a certain „private “part (Canettis diary, large parts of the letter correspondence) for 30 years after its death closed - this may be seen thus only 2024.

among other things

humans live personality Canettis auto+biographic works by reduction on characteristic to describe unusual details and habits on his meetings with a multiplicity of important personalities and his ability. For example it called Alma meal Werfel, the nut/mother the Anna meals admired by him in its Autobiografie of the ophthalmoscopes dissolved old persons on the sofa, when those met strotzende widow the Trophäen of their life around itself. In , which had painted Oskar Kokoschka of its once times loving, he saw the Mörderin of the composer Gustav Mahlers haven-guessed/advised.

Some this haven advice also as hurting exposing, for instance the destroying passages over Canettis former loved iris Murdoch in party in lightning, posthum the published volume were felt over its Londoner years. Many of its contemporaries report of opportunities, at which Canetti other one behaved opposite maliciously or heartless; Hilde play called it one „real poison syringe “and the literary critics (and later married man Murdochs) John Bayley described Canettis role in the Londoner intellectual scene sow-Irish as „the of godmonster OF Hampstead “.

literary work

to lift out is its work mass and power. Strictly sociological study is not to be understood, but contains many elements of the psychology, methods of the Ethnologie and Einsprengsel of the Zoologie as. In the work Canetti follows to a topic, which employed him 30 years long, since then it 1922 a demonstration on the occasion of the murder roll ago Rathenaus and 1927 in Vienna the mass riot before the burning Law Courts had received. What is a mass? Why does a fascination proceed from a mass, from which one cannot extract oneself? How do a mass and a which form „for regularities “follow the actually chaotic gathering of people? Mass movements are a phenomenon of the modern trend. The occupation with the topic is in the 30 to 60's years 20. Jh. very popular. The political effectiveness of mass movements are undisputed since the French revolution. With the development of the worker layer the social role of the mass is still more stressed. Basic thesis Canettis is that the individual in the mass, considered on spatial demarcation, knows its social obligations placings. Social differences are levelled, and it receives its liberty back.

The psychological process, which takes place within the mass, Canetti calls „unloading “. Following Freud it develops the thesis that humans apart from the basic needs after meals, drinking and affection possess also a mass impulse. The mass loses its original negative Konnotation. Masses appear necessary as something natural and.

Canetti differentiates between closed and open masses. The z. B. structurally closed masses are usually „institutionalized masses “of the churches. They possess rules and ceremonies, which intercept the mass „“. „Dear one a safe church fully of Gläubigen as the uncertain whole world. “(S. 20) The institution therefore represents a Zähmung of the mass impulse.

The open mass is usually free full destruction craze and in the modern trend from religious one. It possesses the main goal to grow. It needs one „direction “, a goal, as well as which is appropriate for one outside of each particular „rhythm “, which secures their co-operation. For education it often requires a mass one „mass crystal “, a firm steady group, by which the mass can grow.

A further distinguisher of the masses is „the basic affect “: Therefore differentiate between themselves the rushing mass, which is on killing out and occurs also in the animal realm, which admits escape mass, likewise from the animal realm, which prohibition mass, which revolts itself against existing rules, which it does not want to obey any longer, the reversal mass, which is directed against the former ruling powers, and who Festmasse.

The moreover Canetti in this work derives the human power feeling from the confrontation with death and the experience of surviving. Mass and power became Canettis most well-known, in addition, most disputed book.


the works Canettis are specified approximately in the order of their emergence.

  • The glare (novel; entst. 1930/1931, ersch. 1936, were however already delivered 1935, 2. Aufl. 1948, 3. Aufl. 1963)
  • Wedding (drama; entst. 1932, as manuscript ersch. 1932, printed first 1964)
  • the comedy of the vanity (drama; entst. 1933/1934, printed 1964)
  • recordings (entst. starting from 1942, printed in book form starting from 1964). The recordings lie collected forwards in the volumes the province of humans; Recordings 1942-1972 (1973); The secret heart of the clock; Recordings 1973-1985 (1987); The fly agony (1992); Enter afterwards from Hampstead; From the recordings 1954-1971 (1994); Recordings 1992-1993 (1996); Recordings 1973-1984 (1999); Recordings for Marie Louise (entst. 1942, posthum ersch. 2005).
  • The limited ones (drama, entst. 1952/1953, printed 1964)
  • Fritz Wotruba (over Wotruba with 58 illustrations and enem portrait, preface of Klaus Demus (German expenditure); Preface of James S. Plaut (English expenditure), 1955)
  • the voices of Marrakesch; Recordings after a journey (entst. 1954, ersch. 1968)
  • Mass and power (pre-work since 1925, ersch. 1960)
  • The conscience of the words; Essays (essay and speeches of the years 1936 and 1962-1976, ersch. 1975, 2. erw. Aufl. 1976)
  • The ear witness; Fifty characters (ersch. 1974)
  • The saved tongue; History of a youth (Autobiografie, ersch. 1977)
  • The torch/flare in the ear; Life history 1921-1931 (Autobiografie, ersch. 1980)
  • The eye play; Life history 1931-1937 (Autobiografie, ersch. 1985)
  • Party in lightning; The English years (Autobiografie, posthum ersch. 2003) Review summaries with perlentaucher.de
  • works X: Essays - speeches - discussions (different from 1928 on, posthum ersch. 2005)
  • The hearing work 1953 - 1991 (2 CD). Prosa, dramas, essay, lectures, speeches, discussions. Frankfurt/M.: Two thousand-unity publishing house, 2006


  • Penka Angelova: Elias Canetti - traces for mythischen thinking. Zsolnay publishing house, Vienna 2005. ISBN 3-552-05327-1
  • Dagmar Barnouw: Elias Canetti. Metzler publishing house, Stuttgart 1979. ISBN 3-476-10180-0 (rich bibliography, small essays from and over Canetti, reviews, secondary literature to 1976)
  • Sven Hanuschek: Elias Canetti. Biography. Carl Hanser publishing house, Munich 2005. ISBN 3-446-20584-5
  • Konstantin emperors: The dissociation of power: Elias Canetti and the Viennese group; in: “Intermediate world. Magazine for culture of the exile and the resistance ", 20. Jg., No. 2; Vienna: September 2003; S. 4-6. ISSN 1606-4321
  • Werner Morlang (Hg.): Canetti in Zurich: Memories and discussions. Nail & Kimche in Carl Hanser publishing house, Munich 2005. ISBN 3-312-00353-9.
  • Carol Petersen: Elias Canetti. Colloquium publishing house, Berlin 1990. ISBN 3-7678-0774-2
  • Edgar Piel: Elias Canetti. Beck publishing house, Munich 1984. ISBN 3-406-09588-7.
  • Erich W. Schaufler:Elias Canettis autobiography in the German press. Edwin Mellen press, Lewiston [and. A.] 1992. ISBN 0-7734-9593-2 - (Studies in German LANGUAGE and literature; 11)
  • Kristian Wachinger: Elias Canetti. Pictures from its life. Carl Hanser publishing house, Munich 2005. ISBN 3-446-20599-3
  • Helmut Göbel: Elias Canetti. Rowohlt paperback publishing house, Reinbek 2005. ISBN 3-499-50585-1

Web on the left of

Wikiquote: Elias Canetti - quotations
  • Originalton Elias Canetti: “Wedding” (1965)
  • Originalton Elias Canetti: “Fear rächt itself” (1965)
  • {{#if:
| | * Literature of and over Elias Canetti in the catalog of the DDB


This article was taken up to the list of the articles worth reading.


  > German to English > de.wikipedia.org (Machine translated into English)