1001 Book Review: Auto da Fe by Elias Canetti
Auto Da Fe by Elias Canetti
Published in: 1935
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Peter Kien would be proud of the way books are retaining their value I paid more for this second hand copy than I would have paid for the new copy in 1978….
Synopsis from Goodreads: “Auto-da-Fé” is the story of Peter Kien, a distinguished, reclusive sinologist living in Germany between the wars. With masterly precision, Canetti reveals Kien’s character, displaying the flawed personal relationships which ultimately lead to his destruction.
Manipulated by his illiterate and grasping housekeeper, Therese, who has tricked him into marriage, and Benedikt Pfaff, a brutish concierge, Kien is forced out of his apartment – which houses his great library and one true passion – and into the underworld of the city. In this purgatory he is guided by a chess-playing dwarf of evil propensities, until he is eventually restored to his home. But on his return he is visited by his brother, an eminent psychiatrist who, by an error of diagnosis, precipitates the final crisis…
“Auto-da-Fé” was first published in Germany in 1935 as “Die Blendung” (“The Blinding” or “Bedazzlement”) and later in Britain in 1947, where the publisher noted Canetti as a ‘writer of strongly individual genius, which may prove influential’, an observation borne out when the author was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981. “Auto-da-Fé” still towers as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, and Canetti’s incisive vision of an insular man battling against the outside world is as fresh and rewarding today as when first it appeared in print.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: I thought a book about a booklover with a giant personal library would be right up my street turns out I was wrong.
I liked the early part of the book where we are alone with Kien and his books but as more characters get introduced the book gets more and more absurd and I found myself getting more and more bored. By the end of the book I was more than happy to say goodbye to Kien and everyone associated with him.
One thing this book did serve to highlight was the point that very intelligent people often lack common sense. Kien demonstrates this time and time again by his failure to see exactly what is happening under his nose.
The book descends from a story of bookish solitude and peace to a variety of scenes of violence. Everyone man, woman or child is violent to everyone else and after being hit over the head with so much violence I eventually became immune to it, I no longer cared who was hitting who, who was going to jail, who was a victim of police brutality or who was a victim of general brutality.
This book is an example of German modernism and I can honestly say it is a writing style that doesn’t appeal to me, that said a lot of people appear to admire it so don’t let me put you off.
Who would like this? Personally I can only recommend this to those who are partaking in the read around the world challenge and need to tick Germany of their list.
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