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The Memoirs of Elias Canetti: The Tongue Set Free, The Torch in My Ear, The Play of the Eyes Paperback – April 26, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 840 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 26, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374527148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374527143
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"His style is suave yet enrapturing, his memory and attention to detail simply extraordinary . . . One feels that in Canetti, modern European culture found its ultimate keeper."
--Ilan Stavans, Forward

"Canetti led his life without compromise, fear, or guilt, and if one now encounters his early years for the first time the experience is nearly like discovering, without warning, a complex and satisfying work of art."--David Denby, The New Yorker

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Turnbull on April 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I'm at a loss to convey how great this book is. I think anyone who enjoys literature and fine writing should read it. Canetti was one of the leading writers and intellectuals of the 20th century, and he brings all his formidable talent and insight to this work.
The biography is excellent on many levels. First, it works as a simple biography. Canetti led a very interesting life, and he does an excellent job presenting the important events and influences that shaped him. Because of this, it is a required read for anyone who has enjoyed his other major works (_Auto Da Fe_ and _Crowds and Power_.)
Second, it is great literature. Canetti was an excellent writer, clear and lucid without being bland, with a wonderful ability to see and present the fundamental elements of individuals. His memoirs are full of rich and fascinating characters, which Canetti is able to present either in a few quick strokes or in full detail, depending on their role in his life.
Third, it is a fascinating record of the time. Canetti came of age during and after WWI, and spent much of his early adulthood in the intellectual turmoil of interwar Vienna. Canetti focuses mainly on the intellectual life, describing his interactions with Robert Musil, Bertolt Brecht, Hermann Broch, Karl Kraus, Isaac Babel, and others. Inevitably, though, the memoirs also give some details of everyday existence in central Europe during this chaotic period.
The memoir is not told as a single continuous narrative. Instead, the book gives a series of vivid incidents and characters, the things that Canetti remembered about his life. Because of this, his memoir has a universally high level of power and detail, without long flat stretches of filler. It was his autobiography that finally generated enough support for Canetti to be awarded the Nobel Prize. In my opinion it is is best, most accessible work, and one which can stand with the greatest of 20th century literature.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Justus ohlhaver on October 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have never known better literature. I myself am not a good writer so I'll just say is this: Canetti heightend my sensitivity towards life - fundamentally. His autobiography showed me how complex and interesting life can be, if you see it through a mind like Canetti's who is able to describe his perception in a more profound yet boad way than anybody and who chose a corresponding path of life. I'm glad I read him while still in college, because otherwise I had not known how narrowminded I really was before I met Canetti.
My favorite book.
(PS. English is not my first language so please excuse whatever you don't like about my writing.)
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "liccie" on March 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
what a book, what a writer! having read plenty of literary autobiographies, i am still stunned at the depth and insight of these three volumes. the first, tongue set free, is the most lyrical; the other two focus more on young canetti's developement as a writer and thinker. such is canetti's art that only after reading the books several times the reader notices all the things he is not told... although this autobiography is a great source of enjoyment to everyone who is interested in literature, it should be read with a bit of caution: never to forget that this is, despite everything, literary fiction. i am not implying that canetti is lying (he is not), but he has more purpose than just presenting his times and lifes, and some scenes (like the describtion of café museum) seem to be just describtions while they are full or literary quotes etc. i think it is this that sets canetti's work apart from other writers of the era.
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