The Tongue Set Free | Granta

The Tongue Set Free

Elias Canetti

Translated by Joachim Neugroschel

‘The Tongue Set Free is so beautifully written. It begins wtih an extraordinary image, Canetti’s earliest memory. He comes out of a room. A man makes him stick out his tongue; if he talks he will cut it off. Years later Canetti realises that this was his nursemaid’s lover, frightening him into silence about their rendezvous. The idea of speaking as the entry into forbidden grown-up life dominates this book. When he is seven his father dies. He is propelled from childhood into adulthood, from his father to his mother, through language. In an extraordinary, cruel episode his mother forces him to learn perfect adult German in three months, to replace her husband as quickly as possible. His tongue is set free: he has won his mother, against brothers , against all lovers. It is the most intense Oedipal relationhsip I have ever seen described and Canetti describes it brilliantly. But it’s all extraordinary, and all masterfully written. There are wonderful descriptions of Canetti’s first oriental, medieval home in pre-World War l Bulgaria: of his later homes in Manchester, in Vienna, in Switzerland. There are unforgettable portraits. The values of Auto da Fe are given a human history and a human face’ New Statesman

  • Published: 04/08/2011
  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781847083562
  • 129x20mm, 288 pages

This is a book of real passion and power ... full of cities and sights and odd people - wolves, lovers, food, folktales, war and quarrels

Paul Theroux, Spectator

A tremendous story of determination and triumph ... Canetti led his life without compromise, fear, or guilt, and if one now encounters his early years for the first time the experience is nearly like discovering, without warning, a complex and satisfying work of art

New Yorker

A welcome reissue

Sunday Herald

The Author

Elias Canetti (1905-94), winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize for Literature, was one of the major intellectual figures of the twentieth century. A master of many genres, he is best known for his novel Auto Da Fé and his great work of social theory Crowds and Power. But Canetti’s genius is perhaps nowhere more evident that in the three volumes of his autobiography: The Tongue Set Free, The Torch in My Ear and The Play of the Eyes.

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