I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole: An Elias Canetti Reader (Paperback)

I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole: An Elias Canetti Reader By Elias Canetti, Joshua Cohen (Editor), Joshua Cohen (Editor) Cover Image

I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole: An Elias Canetti Reader (Paperback)

By Elias Canetti, Joshua Cohen (Editor), Joshua Cohen (Editor)

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"A brilliant selection . . . Canetti's range astonishes." —Claire Messud, Harper's

A career-spanning collection of writings by the Nobel laureate Elias Canetti, edited and introduced by Pulitzer Prize winner Joshua Cohen.


He embarked on no adventures, he was in no war. He was never in prison, he never killed anyone. He neither won nor lost a fortune. All he ever did was live in this century. But that alone was enough to give his life dimension, both of feeling and of thought.

Here, in his own words, is one of the twentieth century’s foremost chroniclers: a dizzyingly inventive, formally unplaceable, unstoppably peripatetic writer named Elias Canetti, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1981. I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole is a summa of Canetti’s life and thought, and the definitive introduction to a writer whose genius for interpreting world-historical changes was matched by a keen sense of wonder and an abiding skepticism about the knowability of the self. Born into a Sephardi Jewish family in Bulgaria, Canetti later lived in Austria, England, and Switzerland while traversing, in writing, the great thematic provinces of his time: politics, identity, mortality, and more. Sourced from Canetti’s landmark texts, including Crowds and Power, an analysis of authoritarianism and mobs; Auto-da-Fé, a darkly comic, daringly modernist novel about the fate of European literature; the famous sequence of sensory-titled memoirs, including The Tongue Set Free and The Torch in My Ear; and never-before-translated writings such as the posthumous The Book Against Death, this collection assembles its luminous shards into the fullest portrait yet of Canetti’s remarkable achievement.

Edited and introduced by Pulitzer Prize winner Joshua Cohen (Book of Numbers, The Netanyahus), I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole leads us from Canetti’s polyglot childhood to his mature preoccupations, and his friendships and rivalries with Hermann Broch, James Joyce, Karl Kraus, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, and others. This collection is also interspersed with aphorisms and diary entries, revealing Canetti’s formal range and stylistic versatility in flashes of erudition and introspective humor. Throughout, we come to see Canetti’s restless fascination with the instability of identity as one of the keys to his thought—as he reminds us, It all depends on this: with whom we confuse ourselves.

Elias Canetti was born in 1905 into a Sephardi Jewish family in Ruse, Bulgaria. He moved to Vienna in 1924, where he became involved in literary circles while studying for a degree in chemistry. He remained in Vienna until the Anschluss, when he emigrated to England and later to Switzerland, where he died in 1994. In 1981, Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas, and artistic power.” His best-known works include his trilogy of memoirs The Tongue Set Free, The Torch in My Ear, and The Play of the Eyes; the novel Auto-da-Fé; and the nonfiction book Crowds and Power.

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in New Jersey. He is the author of several books, including A Heaven of Others and Witz. His nonfiction has appeared in Bookforum, The Forward, Harper's and other publications. He lives in New York City.

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in New Jersey. He is the author of several books, including A Heaven of Others and Witz. His nonfiction has appeared in Bookforum, The Forward, Harper's and other publications. He lives in New York City.
Product Details ISBN: 9780374298425
ISBN-10: 0374298424
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: September 27th, 2022
Pages: 416
Language: English

Praise for I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole

"A brilliant selection . . . Canetti's range astonishes . . . Canetti’s evocation of his early childhood in Ruse, Bulgaria, is Tolstoyan in its lucidity and immediacy . . . He expounds movingly and wisely about what matters to him most—art and death." —Claire Messud, Harper's

"A primer on one of the great questing voices of the 20th century . . . The time is right for (re)reading Canetti, who observed with bleak equanimity the various hellfires that presaged our present era of shock and collapse, without ever losing his illusionless faith that there might yet be salvation in witnessing." —Stephen Phelan, Los Angeles Review of Books

"An impressive career-spanning collection . . . Varied and powerful, this is a great introduction to Canetti’s work." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Vibrant . . . A well-chosen introduction to a lauded intellectual." Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Elias Canetti

“Rarely has anyone been so at home in the mind, with so little ambivalence. Far from being a source of complacency, this attitude is Canetti’s great strength . . . [He] is someone who has felt in a profound way the responsibility of words . . . His work eloquently and nobly defends tension, exertion, moral and amoral seriousness.” —Susan Sontag, The New York Review of Books

"Canetti invites—indeed, compels—judgment. His exacting presence honors literature." —George Steiner, The New Yorker