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Auto Da Fé (Vintage classics) Paperback – 19 Oct 1995

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Paperback, 19 Oct 1995
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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New edition edition (19 Oct. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099470314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099470311
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,782,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Savage, subtle, beautifully mysterious--one of the few great novels of the century." - Iris Murdoch "A strange, eloquent and terrifying book." - Philip Toynbee

Book Description

'Strange, savage, subtle, beautifully mysterious... one of the great novels of the [twentieth] century' - Iris Murdoch --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Elias Canetti's Auto Da Fe is a fairly disturbing piece of literature. The most obvious theme is madness but delusion and isloation are also key factors. The protagonist is Professor Kien, a reclusive sociopath who although being a sensitive soul has no abilty to understand and relate to people. Although he is a misanthrope by nature there are touching moments when he considers people his friends and is temporarily relieved of his instinctive malevolence. In a moment of lunacy he weds his maid, a simple minded reactonary who largely causes his demise. We see him go from being independant and wholly immersed in his studies to being thrown out of his own home. He comes to rely on the minipulative dwarf; Fischerle, who suffers from delusions of grandeur and although robbing poor Kien blind does enlist the professor's brother to try and help him. The other character of note is the violence obsessed fascist Bennedikt Pfaff who is totally unable to relate to people without using his fists. Published in 1935 it tells of people who cannot empathise and cannot see the error of their ways. For Canetti, a jew living in Vienna, the outlook was not a pleasant one and the sense of impending doom is portrayed eloquently and with imagery that draws you in to the gloomy lives of its characters. The narrative is lucid and weaves in and out of the characters thoughts with subtlety and precision. I thoroughly recommend this book, the first fifty pages are the most difficult but persevere and you will be rewarded.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a most remarkable novel written in 1935 by this Bulgarian Nobel winning novelist. This immediately appears to be an excellent translation of the German (I'm no expert but suspect the poor ratings given by others confuse the 'original style' as a poor translation?). The book is quite long 430 pages of dense small text.

The basic story centres around fiftysomething Peter Kien, a scholar of all things Oriental and bibliophile. He's insular, intellectual, virginal, never married, slightly misogynist, uptight, knowledgeable and alone. Peter has a huge library which means everything to him. He has a younger brother called George who's a psychologist who he hasn't seen for many years. After eight years in service his housekeeper Therese plots to marry Peter believing him extremely wealthy. She is poorly educated, cannot read well, also fifty but imagines herself thirty, money grapping, scheming and sour individual. After a single incident of brain manipulation by pretending to revere a book, they end up marrying. On the wedding night, wearing a fulsome blue dress (which keeps repeating in the story - a representation of the Virgin Mary?) she either actually or otherwise puts him off - they don't consummate the marriage and Peter realises his mistake. But too late - she controls, beats and schemes to get written in his will, take over Peter's flat etc. They both seem to enter periods of madness and deliberate misunderstandings (for example a key early one is that the wealth Therese imagines Peter has gets confused by Peter as an inheritance of Therese (to spend on more books)).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A book about the everyday life of a man who dislikes people but finds comfort in his books and his mind. It's actually very enthralling. Seeing the main character navigate the ways of life via his marriage to a most ill-matched partner, I just could not stop reading. I found it captivating, possibly because I see so much of myself in the Professor.

I highly recommend this read!
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Format: Paperback
Every now and then through the course of literary history, a writer produces a great book and retreats back into another aspect of their life; in Canetti's case, this retreat was into non-fiction and the intense work he put into his decades-in-the-making study CROWDS & POWER. In the mid 1930's, however, he produced this novel, DIE BLENDUNG (THE BLINDING; translated into English as AUTO-DA-FE [UK] and TOWER OF BABEL [US]). I love this book, possibly because I'm a bibliophile and can relate, in a sick and twisted way, to the protagonist covering up all of the windows and walls of his Berlin apartment with bookshelves. He is a misanthropic, bitter unhappy man who is a top researcher in Sinology. Then comes his housekeeper and an odd hunchbacked dwarf, and the rest is, well, simultaneously repulsive and hilarious. I can see where some would leave it in midstream but I loved it from beginning to end and thought Canetti did a great job conveying that classic battle between the isolationist and his all-invasive surroundings.
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Format: Paperback
This novel seems to really get people's goat. All the criticisms leveled against it are true to a certain extent, there is no character worthy of easy or obvious sympathy, the translation trips over itself at certain moments, it is an exhausting book. But all these faults contribute to its specific lure, its terrible power. Though mean, Canetti's prose doesn't come across as misanthropic. Though furious, it isn't bile after bucket of bile being dashed across the page. The fury comes through the curved vertices of a magnifying glass, an ultimate tragedy and comedy which leaves you uncertain of whether you are really meant to be laughing. It ends in ecstatic despair, leaving you drained, weightless, and finally uplifted. This novel is pure power, without sympathy or misanthropy, a cold eye looking at madness in all of its luscious dysfunction.

Auto Da Fe overcame me, with all its ugliness and tragic comedy. From that summation this novel seems like some cheap thrill to exercise misanthropy, but the depth, focus, restraint (and occasional lack of) transform it from indulgence to a modern myth about delusion, sacrifice and belief. The inevitable and final release of Peter Kien is the most beautiful end to any story I have read, seen or heard. At the heart, there is great love for humanity, viewed through the harshest glass.

This story is complete, with all its cracks, and has been my bible for sometime.

Oh yeah, and it's fun. Do you hear that? Auto Da Fe is a fun book, like as fun as some moderate acts of arson.

Though I haven't read a lot, I have yet to read something as unimpeachable, or dare I say it, perfect.
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