Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From the late 1920s through the mid-'30s, Canetti lived and wrote in Vienna, ``an imperial capital which was no longer imperial,'' while ``the great madness spread like wildfire'' in Germany as the Nazis consolidated their grip. The third volume of his acclaimed autobiographical memoirs, The Play of the Eyes ambles along unpredictably, mingling character sketches, cafe conversations, dramatic readings of his plays, trips to Prague and Strasbourg, musings on the power of crowds and what makes the good man. Canetti offers uncanny insights into his combative friend, novelist Robert Musil, a slightly tipsy, widowed Alma Mahler, conductor Hermann Scherchen and others in his circle. He charts the influence of his mentor, Dr. Sonne, and of Karl Kraus whose writings nearly held Canetti in ``psychic enslavement.'' Canetti uses a dramatist's gifts here to achieve emotional depth; his mother's death, sketched simply against the backdrop of a crumbling Europe, takes on a tragic dignity. (June)
Canetti, recipient in 1981 of the Nobel Prize for Literature, counts among the central thinkers of this century; his oeuvre is acclaimed for both richness of ideas and artistic sophistication. The Play of the Eyes (originally published in German in 1985) is the third volume of Canetti's wonderfully readable memoirs and covers his years in Vienna from the late 1920s to the mid-1930s. With satiric flair and touching honesty Canetti depicts his development as a writer and his relationship with figures such as Broch, Musil, Dr. Sonne (his intellectual mentor), Wotruba, and Alma Mahler and her daughter Annawho inspired the book's title. What emerges is a compelling tableau of the artistic and literary life of Vienna before the Anschluss. The translation aptly conveys the energy and humor of the original text. Essential for academic libraries. Ulrike S. Rettig, German Dept., Harvard Univ.