Elias Canetti


Elias Canetti

Photo: Dutch National Archives, [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl] via Wikimedia Commons

Elias Canetti
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1981

Born: 25 July 1905, Ruse, Bulgaria

Died: 14 August 1994, Zurich, Switzerland

Residence at the time of the award: United Kingdom

Prize motivation: “for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power”

Language: German

Prize share: 1/1


Elias Canetti was born in Ruse, Bulgaria. The family moved to England when he was six, and two years later moved to Austria. Though he received his PhD in chemistry, he never worked as a chemist, choosing to devote himself to writing instead. For many years Canetti lived in London, but during the last 20 years of his life, he resided in Switzerland. Canetti’s native land can be said to be the German language, which despite his nomadic life remained the language in which he wrote his works.


Elias Canetti’s literary body of work includes a novel, three plays, a study of mass movements, some author profiles and his memoirs. The novel Die Blendung (1935) (The Deception) was originally conceived as a series of novels inspired by The Human Comedy series by Honoré de Balzac, the French 19th-century author. But instead of a series of books, Canetti devoted many years to studies of mass movements, which resulted in the book Masse und Macht (1960) (Crowds and Power).

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