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James Lasdun: Salad Days, 9 February 2006

... pay I had ever earned. Being on the clock was instructive in other ways too. In Crowds and Power, Elias Canetti speaks of the ‘sting’ that passes from person to person as commands and other assertions of power travel down through the social hierarchy. As a lifelong freelancer I’d never really felt this sting. I felt it now, and it was a shock. To ...

Vermicular Dither

Michael Hofmann, 28 January 2010

The World of Yesterday 
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Anthea Bell.
Pushkin Press, 474 pp., £20, 1 906548 12 9
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... false and empty – the whole thing a complete void’. In his memoir, The Play of the Eyes, Elias Canetti recalls a meeting with Zweig, who had come back to Vienna for two reasons: to get his teeth seen to, and to set up a new house that would publish his books. The next sentence is: ‘I believe nearly all his teeth were extracted.’ The ...

How Montale earned his living

Clive James, 17 February 1983

The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays of Eugenio Montale 
translated by Jonathan Galassi.
Ecco, 354 pp., $17.50, October 1982, 0 912946 84 9
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Prime alla Scala 
by Eugenio Montale.
Mondadori (Milan), 522 pp., October 1981
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Eugenio Montale’s Poetry: A Dream in Reason’s Presence 
by Glauco Cambon.
Princeton, 274 pp., £16.80, January 1983, 0 691 06520 9
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... essays in modern times, but the earlier Auto da Fé of 1966 (Montale must have been unaware that Elias Canetti had given the English version of Die Blendung that same title) is its necessary complement, being concerned with the question of mass culture – a question made more vexing for Montale by the fact that, although he didn’t like mass ...

She gives me partridges

Bee Wilson: Alma Mahler, 5 November 2015

Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler 
by Oliver Hilmes, translated by Donald Arthur.
Northeastern, 360 pp., £29, May 2015, 978 1 55553 789 0
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... lady, the ruler.’ These sovereign qualities lasted long after her looks had faded. When Elias Canetti met her in 1933, he observed an ‘inebriated individual, who looked much older than she was’, large and overflowing, ‘with a cloying smile and bright, wide-open, glassy eyes’. Yet still she drew men to her, like mosquitoes around a ...

With A, then B, then C

Susan Eilenberg: The Sexual Life of Iris M., 5 September 2002

Iris Murdoch: A Life 
by Peter Conradi.
HarperCollins, 706 pp., £9.99, August 2002, 9780006531753
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... probably have married, if things had gone on as they were going’. She looked for consolation to Elias Canetti, the dark counterpart to Steiner but also, in his attentiveness, his promiscuity and his power to enslave his lovers, a counterpart to Murdoch herself, or to what she might have been on the verge of becoming. He may have been the person who ...

A Very Low Birth Rate in Kakania

Nicholas Spice, 16 October 1997

The Man without Qualities 
by Robert Musil, translated by Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike.
Picador, 1774 pp., £40, November 1995, 0 330 34682 2
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The Man without Qualities 
by Robert Musil, translated by Sophie Wilkins.
Picador, 1130 pp., £15, October 1997, 0 330 34942 2
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... Musil disliked the wrong kind of talk. ‘He took no part in vague conversation,’ wrote Elias Canetti, who knew him in Vienna: ‘A discussion, he felt, should start from something precise and aim at something precise.’ Talk was too important to be thoughtlessly squandered. Why else would power fear talk and set it against action? The ...

The crematorium is a zoo

Joshua Cohen: H.G. Adler, 3 March 2016

The Wall 
by H.G. Adler, translated by Peter Filkins.
Modern Library, 672 pp., £12.99, September 2015, 978 0 8129 8315 9
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... either: Leonard Kauders (based on Franz Baermann Steiner) and Oswald and Inge Bergmann (based on Elias and Veza Canetti) refer him to a philanthropist who doesn’t offer any money, just a job at a wallpaper factory. Arthur is going broke for writing a book about deception, self-deception and persecution, while ...

The Old Feudalist

D.A.N. Jones, 3 July 1986

Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass 
by Karen Blixen.
Penguin, 351 pp., £3.95, January 1986, 0 14 008533 5
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Out of Africa 
by Karen Blixen.
Century, 288 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 7126 1016 2
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Isak Dinesen: The Life of Karen Blixen 
by Judith Thurman.
Penguin, 511 pp., £3.50, April 1986, 9780140096996
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... and has nothing particular to tell us about Egypt, Ghana or Tunis. One might as well claim that Elias Canetti’s account of his boyhood in Bulgaria was ‘the finest book ever written about the nature of the European continent and its people’. The Baroness, like Canetti, was much inclined to generalise about ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... Under the Sign of Saturn (1980), made up of valedictory tributes to pantheon figures like Elias Canetti, Walter Benjamin, Antonin Artaud and Roland Barthes. This is when she began to overuse the word ‘exemplary’ and when elegy became her prevailing song. A more intimate tone marked the personal eulogy to the social theorist and activist Paul ...

No Talk in Bed

Owen Flanagan: Confucius, 2 April 1998

The Analects of Confucius 
translated by Simon Leys.
Norton, 224 pp., £9.95, February 1998, 0 393 31699 8
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The Analects of Confucius 
translated by Chichung Huang.
Oxford, 224 pp., £35, October 1997, 0 19 506157 8
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... for, the cryptic, didactic, fragmented way in which he chose to speak. Leys approvingly quotes Elias Canetti’s remark that the Analects ‘strikes one as a modern book’. I find this puzzling unless Canetti was thinking – as I doubt whether he was – of the best-selling genre of self-help, personal growth ...

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