Academic journal article German Quarterly

A Companion to the Works of Elias Canetti

Academic journal article German Quarterly

A Companion to the Works of Elias Canetti

Article excerpt

Lorenz, Dagmar C. G., ed. A Companion to the Works of Elias Canetti. Rochester: Camden House, 2004. $90.00 hardcover.

A literary companion that begins with obituaries and ends with events that occur early in an author's life clearly seeks to undermine any sense of chronology. Fortunately, A Companion to the Works of Elias Canetti successfully mirrors Canetti's own aversion to clichés while still providing the reader an introduction to his works.

The first section, devoted to Canetti's global significance, uses obituaries published worldwide to show both his significance in the world, and the way that Canetti himself preferred to manage his image during his lifetime (William Donahue).

The section entitled "Writing and Language" includes Anne Fuchs' article on Canetti's relationship to his "mother tongue": German was not Canetti's first language, but rather one taught to him by his mother after the death of his father. The article discusses not only the significance of this fact, but also the role of languages and tongues in Canetti's work. Hans Reiss's article on Canetti's response to other writers and their work points out that Canetti focuses on themes found in his own work as well. He not only valued those authors and works that are sources of knowledge and insight, but also those whose views were opposed to his own, because of their ability to provoke him to new ideas. Julian Preece's contribution traces the path that leads from Canetti's aversion to systems and ideologies and leads through the works that defy generic classification.

In the section directly addressing Canetti's work, Wolfgang Mieder shows the relationship between Canetti's aphorisms and his desire to avoid formulaic constructions and his awareness that many such constructions derive from violent or torturous realities. Sigurd Paul Scheichl's discussion of Canetti's Aufzeicknungen, which were written concurrently with some of his other works, highlights the author's anti-systematic approach, word creation and intertextuality as part of the process of writing. Helga Krafts's discussion of Canetti's plays highlights the postmodern structure, acoustic masks and ridicule of the characters used to ask questions, rather than provide answers or solutions. …

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