The End of Modernism: Elias Canetti's Auto-da-fé by William Donahue

By William Donahue

Nobel laureate Elias Canetti wrote his novel Auto-da-F©(Die Blendung) whilst he and the 20 th century have been nonetheless fairly younger. Rooted within the cultural crises of the Weimar interval, Auto-da-F© first bought serious acclaim abroad--in England, France, and the United States--where it keeps to fascinate readers of next generations. severe reactions have abounded, yet by no means has a entire examine positioned this paintings in its cultural and philosophical contexts. the top of Modernism seeks to just do that, situating the unconventional not just on the subject of Canetti's enormous physique of social concept, but additionally inside better debates on Freud and Freudianism, misogyny and modernism's "fragmented subject," racial anti-Semitism and the failure of humanism, modern philosophy and philosophical fads, and traditionalist notions of literature and escapist conceptions of background. the top of Modernism portrays Auto-da-F© as an exemplum of "analytic modernism," and during this experience an important endpoint within the development of postwar conceptions of literary modernism.

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Scarcely had it curvetted off the ladder, with fearful crash, than the trumpeting caretakers were transformed into landsknechts. A vast inspiration surged up in Kien. The caretaker was a landsknecht, what else? The fist had no more terrors for him. Before him sat a familiar historical figure. He knew what it would do and what it would not do . . Unhappy, late-born creature, who had come into the world a landsknecht in the twentieth century . . shut out from the epoch for which it had been created, stranded in another to which it would always remain a stranger!

This association of Alexis with the grand tradition of Rankian positivism may, however, distract from the more questionable ends to which such literature was routinely put, namely, as culturally affirmative purveyor of national(ist) tradition. ’’ 33 At the turn of the century, Thomas suggests, Alexis’s ‘‘works may have been officially encouraged for political reasons. In the years following the unification of Germany an effort was made to build up a German tradition, something which older nations had created for themselves through the centuries.

47 ‘‘He was tall, strong, fiery and sure of himself; in his features there was something of that gentleness which women need before they can feel at home with a man. ’’ 48 Only later will it occur to the reader that this glowing description, not unlike those laudatory program notes about actors and singers, has been authored by none other than the honoree himself. Canetti’s point in introducing the good, and good-looking, doctor four-  :                                fifths through Auto-da-Fé, is central to the novel’s project of reflecting on— and distancing itself from—popular contemporary realism.

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