THE TOWER OF BABEL by Elias Canetti


Email this review


Incipient to total madness, in nightmare, Daliesque terms, with underlying symbolism for the basic story of scholar-bibliomaniac Professor Kien and his abnormal love for his library. In his inhuman devotion to his books, his fanaticism is assailed by his housekeeper's avarice and viciousness and he is betrayed into marrying her. Again he is hoodwinked by his caretaker, and in his wanderings on the margins of society, yet again by the dwarf chess maniac Fischerle. Through the story of each is woven the hidden roots of actions, perverted reasoning, obsessive details of self belief and self destruction, until the finale is reached in Kien's burning of his books....A book first published in Vienna in 1938, heralded as one of the leading novels of the century. In England it carried the title Auto-da-Fe. Possibly Mr. Canetti can be credited with ideals of scholarship; as a novelist he seems portentous, monotonous, and- in final analysis- trivial. Any market- beyond a possible handful seeking obscure and erudite books- is difficult to spot.

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 1947
Publisher: Knopf