NOTES FROM HAMPSTEAD by Elias Canetti

NOTES FROM HAMPSTEAD

The Writer's Notes: 1954-1971

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A Nobel Prize winner illuminates topics ranging from death and great writers to religion and myth, ethnicity and creativity, and much more. Canetti's (190594) prestige rests on an unusual assortment of books, from his one novel, Auto-da-FÇ, to the wide-ranging study of social anthropology, Crowds and Power, to a three-volume memoir published in the '70s. The language of Canetti's writing is German, reflecting his formative years in Vienna, but his background was multilingual and multinational; he spent his final decades in England--hence the title of this volume. Recent books from Canetti's pen (such as Agony of Flies, 1994) have been of the notebook genre, of which he was a master. Some might greet the new book as the last gasp of an old writer emptying scraps of paper from his desk drawers. But in fact these ``notes,'' which range from opaque jottings to incisively perceptive aphorisms, will strike the experienced reader of Canetti as a fine display of cerebral fireworks. Language and writing were the mode of his thought process. He did not put his thoughts into words; his thoughts were themselves a meteor shower of vivid words and phrases, sentences that seem to flash whole from his extraordinary mind. ``A great many ideas,'' as he puts it, ``want to remain comets.'' The comment embodies Canetti's enthusiasm for the fragment as form. Reading this volume could be likened to touring the workshop of a master sculptor. No piece is finished: Some seem abandoned, some seem in progress, some are scarcely recognizable, yet each exists for its own sake, and each bears the distinctive marks of the master's chisel. Canetti's touch is uncompromising in its authority, its unpretentious honesty, and its passion. This volume is composed as a gathering of fragments and as such will not please many. But the few will be grateful for Canetti's book and for Hargraves's exacting translation of it.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-22326-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997




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