- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Elias Canetti on Astonishment, Reality, Writing, Books, and More.


Happy birthday, Elias Canetti! Here are some quotes from the writer:


“Relearn astonishment, stop grasping for knowledge, lose the habit of the past, it is too rich, you’re drowning in it, look at new people, pay attention to those who can no longer become models for you. Act on the word you have used more than any other: ‘transformation.'”


“A tormenting thought: as of a certain point, history was no longer real. Without noticing it, all mankind suddenly left reality; everything happening since then was supposedly not true; but we supposedly didn’t notice. Our task would now be to find that point, and as long as we didn’t have it, we would be forced to abide in our present destruction.”


“Books have no life; they lack feeling maybe, and perhaps cannot feel pain, as animals and even plants feel pain. But what proof have we that inorganic objects can feel no pain? Who knows if a book may not yearn for other books, its companions of many years, in some way strange to us and therefore never yet perceived?”


“The process of writing has something infinite about it. Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation, and it seems most true when it eschews artistic devices of any sort whatsoever.”


“It is always the enemy who started it, even if he was not the first to speak out, he was certainly planning it; and if he was not actually planning it, he was thinking of it; and, if he was not thinking of it, he would have thought of it.”


“I want to keep smashing myself until I am whole.”


“I hate judgments that only crush and don’t transform.”


“There are books, that one has for twenty years without reading them, that one always keeps at hand, that one takes along from city to city, from country to country, carefully packed, even when there is very little room, and perhaps one leafs through them while removing them from a trunk; yet one carefully refrains from reading even a complete sentence. Then after twenty years, there comes a moment when suddenly, as though under a high compulsion, one cannot help taking in such a book from beginning to end, at one sitting: it is like a revelation. Now one knows why one made such a fuss about it. It had to be with one for a long time; it had to travel; it had to occupy space; it had to be a burden; and now it has reached the goal of its voyage, now it reveals itself, now it illuminates the twenty bygone years it mutely lived with one. It could not say so much if it had not been there mutely the whole time, and what idiot would dare to assert that the same things had always been in it.”


“There is something impure in the laments about the dangers of our time, as if they could serve to excuse our personal failure.”


“It amazes me how a person to whom literature means anything can take it up as an object of study.”


“Ideally, you should use only words which you have filled with new meaning.”


“You keep taking note of whatever confirms your ideas—better to write down what refutes and weakens them!”


“You need the rhetoric of others, the aversion it inspires, in order to find the way out of your own.”


“The once-seen does not exist yet. The always seen no longer exists.”



Leave a Reply