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The Rediscovered Writings of Veza Canetti

The Rediscovered Writings of Veza Canetti: Out of the Shadows of a Husband

Julian Preece
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    The Rediscovered Writings of Veza Canetti
    Book Description:

    The Viennese playwright, novelist, and short-story writer Veza Canetti was born in 1897 into a mixed Sephardic-Ashkenazi Jewish family and died in 1963 in London. Part of the avant garde in 1920s Vienna (where she met her future husband and Nobel Prize wi

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-700-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
    J. P.
  4. A Note on Names
    (pp. x-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations and Translations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    I first came across Elias Canetti’s autobiography fifteen years ago when working on a paper about German writers whose lives were turned upside down by the events of the last century. I still find The Tongue set Free and the two volumes that followed to be the most exciting of his big books. His account of a childhood among Spanish-speaking Jews in pre-1914 Bulgaria, of his family’s moves, first to Manchester in defiance of his paternal grandfather, to Vienna after the sudden death of his young father, from there to the haven of Switzerland, and then to Frankfurt during the...

  7. 1: A Lost Literary Life Recovered: Veza Canetti
    (pp. 11-32)

    Veza Canetti left no diary and her surviving letters rarely mention her own writing. There are no contemporary reviews of the fifteen stories she published in newspapers during her lifetime because they never appeared in book form. Her husband’s friend, the Czech-born poet and chronicler of Theresienstadt, H. G. Adler, is the only contemporary to comment on anything she wrote. He did so in a private letter about one of her three plays sixteen years after it was written, seemingly unaware that she was also the author of novels and stories, for which she is now more famous.¹ We know...

  8. 2: The Case of Veza Magd
    (pp. 33-55)

    After so many years of obscurity Veza Canetti could not have anticipated that more than a quarter of a century after her death her story would become a feminist cause célèbre. Yet there is no other way to describe her impact in Germany when her writings began to appear in the 1990s. On the publication of The Tortoises in 1999, Anna Mitgutsch, a distinguished Austrian writer and critic, author of a contemporary feminist classic on abusive family relationships, wrote a scathing attack on her husband. She accused him of direct responsibility for Veza’s neglect both before and after her death,...

  9. 3: Shared Beginnings
    (pp. 56-66)

    Elias and Veza Canetti began to write at the same time; he started with his only novel, while she wrote short stories for the workers’ newspaper in Vienna. After graduating in chemistry in the summer of 1929, he initially began to work on an even more ambitious eight-volume project he had called (after Balzac) the Comédie Humaine of Madmen. In the end he wrote only one volume, initially called Kant catches Fire, which he completed between 1930 and 1931. It is about an eccentric academic whose mind is so warped by reading and his sequestered intellectual life that he marries...

  10. 4: Workers’ Writer: Veza at the Arbeiter-Zeitung, 1932–33
    (pp. 67-84)

    In the Viennese Arbeiter-Zeitung of 29 June 1932, seven months and a day before Adolf Hitler was appointed Reichskanzler of Germany, the thirty-five-year-old occasional English teacher and freelance translator, Venetiana Taubner-Calderon, published her first short story. It was on the tragic fate of a young working-class woman, but she entitled it “The Victor” after her protagonist’s more powerful male employer. This was the same title as a recently released blockbuster from the UFA film studios starring German cinema’s leading matinée idol, who soon became Nazi Germany’s greatest box office draw and male poster-boy, Hans Albers. Judging from a line in...

  11. 5: What’s in a Name? On Maids
    (pp. 85-99)

    It was far from unusual in the interwar period for satirical or leftwing German authors to adopt a nom de plume. Indeed there is a long tradition of German literary Jewish writers changing their name to hide their family origins from prejudiced readers.¹ Neither of the other two Jewish women writers from “the 1890s generation,” Claire Goll and Gertrud Kolmar, whom Dagmar Lorenz groups with Veza, published under their real names.² The greatest satirist of the Weimar period, Kurt Tucholsky, invented a number of writing personae, alternately calling himself Peter Panther, Theobald Tiger, Ignaz Wrobel, and Kaspar Hauser, after the...

  12. 6: Writing under Cover, 1934–38
    (pp. 100-114)

    In the second phase of Veza’s career — after the closure of the Arbeiter-Zeitung in February 1934 and until the Anschluss in March 1938 — she wrote two plays, The Ogre and The Tiger, and a number of short stories and novellas, which all distinguish themselves sharply from the material that appeared in the workers’ press between 1932 and 1934. Canetti in contrast wrote nothing that he could present for publication. The intensified censorship meant that Veza had to change her style and subject matter if she wanted to get published in Austria, let alone Nazi Germany. Unlike Canetti, she...

  13. 7: Portraits
    (pp. 115-139)

    It was Canetti’s most persistent critic who first suggested in a review of Yellow Street that “Knut Tell, Poet” was a satirical portrait of the author’s future husband.¹ Being reminded of his first wife’s gentle satire reportedly upset him.² What the reviewer could not know was that Tell appears two more times in Veza’s writings, in a short story entitled “Lost Property” (“Der Fund”) which first appeared in the Arbeiter-Zeitung in April 1933, and in The Tiger, which makes him her single most enduring character. What is striking in the context of the Canettis’ literary marriage is that by the...

  14. 8: Rivalry and Partnership
    (pp. 140-168)

    Far more than Friedl Benedikt or Iris Murdoch, let alone Kathleen Raine, Veza reacted not only to her husband’s personality but also to his writing and ideas. In turn she exerted a more profound influence on him than any of his literary girlfriends or pupil/mistresses. While he put her into his fiction and drama before he made her a major character in his autobiography, her ideas (on the psychology and ethics of sight, ogres, the hunt, physical disability, the life of animals, cinema, even sexual equality) fed into his work. Their relationship went through phases of partnership, conflict, reconciliation, and...

  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 169-176)
  16. Index
    (pp. 177-184)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-185)