In Canetti got an offer to publish the book in English with Jonathan Cape , but it was decided to delay publication until after the war. It was eventually released in A writer for the Spectator described it as: "Appalling, magnificent He uses the least amount of furniture possible, to make room for his pacing through his lofty rooms, sleeping on a small divan. He holds books at a higher value than human life, and becomes obsessed with the protection of his library, which he fancies the largest private library in the city: He himself was the owner of the most important private library in the whole of this great city. He carried a minute portion of it with him wherever he went.
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The question this latter raises is: Who is deceiving whom? The unrelenting comic irony suggests that everyone is deceiving not only everyone else, but also themselves. All the characters are mad to some degree, and Kafkaesque to the extent that they emerge out of a somewhat hostile, vaguely Eastern European world in which they are striving to survive Read More for Mental Health The literal translation of the German title of Auto da Fe is The Blinding, or perhaps more idiomatically, The Deception.
All the characters are mad to some degree, and Kafkaesque to the extent that they emerge out of a somewhat hostile, vaguely Eastern European world in which they are striving to survive but about which they have little understanding. Peter Kien, the central figure, is a pseudo-academic recluse whose self-identity is defined as the precise opposite of his bother George. Brother George is a celebrated gynaecologist turned psychiatrist who, therefore, thinks he knows everything there is to know about women.
Peter knows absolutely nothing about other people much less women. He knows only books, particularly books written in the Chinese language which he has never heard spoken, and most particularly books written by Confucius, with whom he has frequent intimate conversations and intellectual arguments. Without advice or consultation Peter marries his housekeeper. What could possibly go wrong? Mutual connubial disappointment of course ensues. She wants sex and furniture; he wants silence and books.
He feigns blindness; she, an affair. He mounts an insurrection, rousing his army of books to fever-pitch against the woman and the furniture, except, understandably enough, for the pacifist Buddhist tomes and the French volumes which decline to fight over a mere woman.
The English participate grudgingly since the impetus for war had come from the racially inferior Chinese. Before overt hostilities can begin, Peter, this Napoleon de la bibliotheque, betrayed by a treacherous library ladder, has crashed to the carpeted floor, bleary and bleeding.
The realities they perceive, or rather define, are patently delusional, in that for each to achieve their desired state the world would have to be different than it is. It would have to conform with Confucian aphorisms, or the advice of a demented mother, or the speculations of economic and business pundits.
Each character has his own ideological touchstone which he values above all else, including actual personal well-being. All actual experience is rationalised through the fateful filters adopted by each. Peter articulates the general philosophy: "Esse percipe, to be is to be perceived. What I do not perceive does not exist. Peter simply removes his wife from his perception by not seeing her: "Blindness is a weapon against time and space The dominating principle of the universe is blindness It permits the truncation of time when time in unendurable.
One class of books Peter finds objectionable: novels. The better he calculates the size of the wedge and the strength of the resistance, so much more completely dies he crack open the personality of his victim. Novels should be prohibited by the State. The insanity is in our heads not in the world. Peter dislikes novels because he knows how they work, and he is implicitly a believer in totalitarian culture. The tone of Auto da Fe is somewhat dismal, despite its comedic flow, because the human condition Canetti describes is somewhat dismal.
Our devotion to ideology is a chronic issue which becomes more evident as democratic politics becomes more visible and, as recently, more radical. The mystical tenor of Auto da Fe fits well with a Kabbalist interpretation, as does its denouement when we persist in our linguistic errors.
We may indeed be better off reading more fiction. Postscript: the following appeared in my feed. Reading is indeed both a submissive and subversive activity. It is also dangerous since its effects are subtle and incalculable. Nevertheless restricting reading is always a greater disaster.
I read this book at a very tense and difficult time in my life. I found it dismal in the extreme and the comedic element left a bad taste in my mouth. I would say it was one of the most unpleasant reading experiences of my life. But when I read your review, I realized that a lot more could be said for it, Thanks. I can understand your reaction entirely. Proving once again the essential subjectivity of literature.
Perhaps you might try it again some day. It strikes me as strange that the English and German titles for this masterpiece are so different, and yet so fitting. Canetti, bilingual, multifaceted, a master of wordplay, must have delighted in the ambiguity. What happens if you believe blindly, and This is the world as we know it - crazy as can be! What happens if you believe blindly, and violently, in one truth, and set out to spread it to others? Elias Canetti is one of those strange writers that are hard to grasp, and get more complex with each book I read.
When I first read Auto Da Fe, it instantly became a favourite that I started buying in bulk to give away to moderately pleased family members and friends who did not necessarily share my love for complicated, intellectually sophisticated plots and darkest sarcasm. It is an allegory of different, incompatible layers of society, living in close proximity to each other, and thus forcing interactions upon its various representatives. A purely intellectual scholar tries to withdraw from the outside world and live in peace with his erudition and library routines A Head Without A World.
He is invaded by almost illiterate, but life-experienced representatives of the world, who strive to make a profit out of everything while seeking pleasure in physical activities Headless World. As all of them are convinced that theirs is the right way of thinking, the others invariably appear to be mad. This is a reciprocal feeling, and the question for the reader is to figure out what kind of madness has befallen which character, including the doctor who is supposed to cure the other characters!
When I read his play, Die Befristeten , my general response was laughter, even though it dealt with the taboo of death and our relationship to it.
The sad message is that the different mindsets would all be able to coexist harmoniously if human beings could just be tolerant enough to leave each other in peace with their respective personal obsessions.
It involved a Catholic Mass , prayer, a public procession of those found guilty, and a reading of their sentences. Anyone who was guilty or knew of someone who was guilty was urged to confess. If the accused were charged, they were presumed guilty. Officials could apply torture during the trial. Inquisitors were required to hear and record all testimony. Preparations began a month in advance and only occurred when the inquisition authorities believed there were enough prisoners in a given community or city.
Auto da fé (romanzo)