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Canetti, Elias

auto mass jewish vienna

(Swiss, 1905–94)

Born in Bulgaria, Canetti was the son of a Spanish- and German-speaking Jewish family. He was educated in Zurich and Frankfurt and qualified as a chemist at the University of Vienna before coming to London in 1939, part of a mass emigration of Jewish intellectuals from Austria. His only novel is Auto da Fé (1935), the story of Peter Klein, a scholar who lives through books but ends up burning his own library. A parable about the nature of knowledge, politics and life, Auto da Fé was inspired by the 1927 burning of Vienna's Palace of Justice, and reflects on the book burnings of the Nazi regime. Canetti's other works include a study of mass behaviour, Crowds and Power (1962), three volumes of autobiography, and many collections of essays and philosophical speculations. Elias Canetti received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981.

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